PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Of Mice and Men — See What the Boys in the Bunkhouse Will Have

By Harry Haun
17 Apr 2014

Jim Norton
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Franco's younger brother, David, who still "Scrubs" after eight seasons, and their grandmother, who stole focus when James landed his "Oz the Great and Powerful" air balloon on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" last year, were the next-of-kin contingent.

"Saturday Night Live" writer Colin Jost, who has just started anchoring "Weekend Update" (filling the Seth Meyers-shaped cavern), came with friend-of-the-court status. "I'm here because James is a friend and frequent host of 'SNL.'" Another Franco pal was Suttirat Anne Larlarb, costume designer for such Danny Boyle movies as the Oscar-winning "Slumdog Millionaire" and Franco's Oscar-nominated "127 Hours."

A gaggle of "Gossip Girl" friends showed up to support Meester — among them, Amanda Setton ("Penelope Shafai") and Zuzanna Szadkowski ("Dorota Kishlovsky") — as did Minka Kelly, her roommate in "The Roommate" of 2011.

James Earl Jones, a memorable Lennie to Kevin Conway's George in Broadway's last Of Mice and Men 40 years ago, arrived with his wife and ex-Desdemona, Cecilia Hart. Joe Morton, who in 40 years has gone from a Tony-nominated Raisin to television's "Scandal," played Crooks in the Gary Sinise-John Malkovich 1992 "Of Mice and Men" movie. (And, no, he hasn't caught Denzel Washington in the current unmusical Raisin.)

A Sweet Charity Tony winner before he discovered the horrors of television ("True Blood," "American Horror Story"), Denis O'Hare filmed his adaptation of An Iliad at New York Theatre Workshop, and it will air on PBS this fall. May 12, he can be found in the longtime-in-coming TV movie of Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart.

Keith Nobbs' life after Bronx Bombers is focused on a TNT pilot that could become the new mother ship for NY actors like "Law and Order." Written, produced and directed by its star Ed Burns, "Public Morals" is about "a division of NYPD that basically dealt with gambling, prostitution, homosexuality, various aspects of public morality. They were kind of the gatekeepers of public morals, but, of course, all the cops in the division were completely and totally corrupt," he said, pointing the way to episodic conflict. Michael Rapaport and Ruben Santiago-Hudson are down for it.

David Franco
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the twenty-something tunesmiths of Dogfight and A Christmas Story, feel a new musical coming on. They've set a reading for June.

Also present: Katie Couric; Motown's co-choreographer (Warren Adams) and Berry Gordy (Brandon Victor Dixon), who are debuting as Broadway producer with this — and not a song in it; Terry Kinney; director Paul Haggis, the only person to write two consecutive Oscar-winning Best Pictures (2004's "Million Dollar Baby" and 2005's "Crash"); Joey Slotnick from the last "Secret Life of Walter Mitty"; Danai Gurira, the Zimbabwean-American actress among "The Walking Dead"; Obie-winning director Anne Kauffman, currently represented with (you should pardon the expression) Your Mother's Copy of the Kama Sutra, premiering April 21 at Playwrights Horizons; writer-director Stephen Belber, whose "Match" will be unreeled and toasted April 19 at the Tribeca Film Festival (it stars Patrick Stewart in Frank Langella's Tony-nominated role of an eccentric, and possibly paternal, ballet instructor); Irish playwright Roisin Donnelly, finishing up a fact-based opus about an Irish madhouse of the 1940s called Birds Nest Soup, and Valisia LeKae, the Tony-nominated Diana Ross in Motown, who left the show in December to be treated after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer.

First-nighters are faced with the delirious prospect of a second Plaza Hotel after-party in a row with the April 17 opening of Act One. It's about Moss Hart learning to write plays with the man who directed Wallace Ford and Broderick Crawford in the original 1937 Broadway production of Of Mice and MenGeorge S. Kaufman. The New York Drama Critics gave it their Best Play award — over Thornton Wilder's Our Town and Clifford Odets' Golden Boy. How do you like them rabbits, George?