PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Richard III and Twelfth Night — Belly Up to the Bard, Boys

By Harry Haun
11 Nov 2013

Stephen Fry
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Seven musicians manning instruments that go back to Shakespeare's time line the onstage balcony. (Ms. Van Kampen, incidentally, has been Mrs. Rylance since 1992.)

Dominic Dromgoole, who is the current artistic director of The Globe, was in attendance.

"We gave birth to the shows last year at The Globe, and we're very happy to have them over here," he offered. "This particular combination of plays was Mark's idea. We'd done Twelfth Night about ten years ago. He wanted to give it a bit more life and give it a longer run — and he wanted to play Richard III as well, and he thought he could do it with one company. It energizes him. He loves the immediacy of contact on Broadway. He's having a conversation between the stage and the audience—it feels to him like The Globe. He feeds on anything the audience does."

Imperious Greg Dawson, owner/emperor of the late, deeply lamented Barrymore's Restaurant, can be spotted at the very start of Richard III escorting patrons to their seats on stage. (There are double-decker seating on both sides of the stage flanking and framing the action.) "We call this role Stage Seater," he explained, "and I do believe I'll get a Tony nomination out of it." Head usher at the Winter Garden, he counts this as just a temporary gig. "I'll be here for the whole run, and then I will be going back to the newly refreshed Winter Garden for Rocky: Das Musical."

The turn-out for both openings, despite the storm-clouds, was quite starry. BFFs Matthew Broderick and Kenneth Lonergan arrived together for the first helping. Broderick just got a gig introducing movies on Turner Classic Movies; Lonergan said he was writing movies — specifically, a new adaptation of "Howard's End" for the BBC. (I told him to watch out for that bookcase.) They left after Play One to join their working wives: Mrs. Broderick (Sarah Jessica Parker) is in The Commons of Pensacola (a play at Manhattan Theatre Club's City Center space), and Mrs. Lonergan (J. Smith Cameron) is the Juno of Juno and the Paycock at The Irish Rep.

Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin, newlyweds 52 years later, caught both plays the same day and made a point of personally complementing the actors at the party. (Chahidi was particularly thrilled by Prentiss' praise of his Maria.) It is believed to be the first Sunday that The Benjamins spent all day in a theatre since Dec. 7, 1975, when they gave all three plays in The Norman Conquests their Broadway premieres.

Geoffrey Rush went the six-hours-of-Shakespeare distance as well and extended lengthy congratulations to Rylance. While having an intermission cigarette at the first play, he said as soon as his son gets through with high school (which is soon) he'll be open to doing a play in New York. His last (and first) time on Broadway, Exit the King, got him the Tony — and a variation of that looniness earned him much praise at BAM for Diary of a Madman. His latest film, "The Book Thief," bowed Friday.

Quite a few stars skipped the matinee because they had matinees of their own to do, but they showed up for the evening's Twelfth Night. Among them were Rylance's La Bete co-star, David Hyde Pierce, fresh off The Landing at the Vineyard; Zachary Quinto and Celia Keenan-Bolger, bro and sis in The Glass Menagerie; Tovah Feldshuh, in what looked like her Marathon jogging gear, arriving with hubby, son and daughter from playing Pippin's current high-flying granny; Christian Carmargo, Rylance's stepson-in-law plying the family trade of Broadway Shakespeare as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet; Victoria Clark, a loose Snow Goose anticipating the big cast-reunion concert of Titanic: The Musical at Avery Fisher Hall Feb. 17, 2014 ("I hope we get a little rehearsal").

Joe DiPietro said he's, at long last, figured out who killed '20s film director William Desmond Taylor. His latest play, a 17-character Hollywood murder mystery-satire titled The Unfortunate Murder of William Desmond Taylor, rates a reading in December at the La Jolla Playhouse, under the direction of Christopher Ashley. The very unusual suspects include Mabel Norman (of Mack and Mabel), Mary Miles Minter and the mother of Mary Miles Miner, so you'd be smart to dial M for Murder.

Doubling the sparkle for the openings were America Ferrera from "Ugly Betty," Bethany and beyond; Buck Henry; a wildly hirsute Josh Hamilton; director Michael Mayer, busy touching up Rigoletto at The Met before he focuses on Neil Patrick Harris and Hedwig and the Angry Inch for Broadway in the spring; Slate Holmgren from TV's "Elementary"; Doris Roberts, out and about and looking lovely after just turning 88; Yael Stone, another Aussie best-known for "Orange Is the New Black"; Alan Cox, And Away We Go playwright Terrence McNally and After Midnight producer Tom Kirdahy; Sigourney Weaver in tinted shades; Joan Rivers; The Post's Michael Riedel; director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall, content this night to being the wife of Mr. Producer (Scott Landis); directors Moises Kaufman and Joe Mantello; music mogul Clive Davis; comedienne Lisa Lambert; Taboo Tony nominee Euan Morton and Matthew Schechter.

Both shows, by the way, concluded with curtain calls that are exuberantly danced — the best curtain calls since the wave after wave of actors lapped up on The Coast of Uptopia. Jack O'Brien, who directed that, will be pea-green with envy. Hopefully, he won't have his large Macbeth cast do Highland flings with their bows...