James Earl Jones, set to anchor the new Broadway revival of You Can't Take It With You, was actually harboring hopes to one day star in a different Kaufman and Hart classic.
"What I wanted to do was The Man Who Came to Dinner," said Jones, mentioning the lead role of acerbic, insufferable columnist and radio personality Sheridan Whiteside. Instead, he will be playing the much more even-tempered — if no less eccentric — Martin Vanderhof, the head of bursting 1930s household that adheres to no conformity.
Jones is quite content with his unexpected new assignment. And many of his fellow artists are happy he agreed to try it on.
"To have him play my father is a privilege," said Kristine Nielsen, who portrays Martin's daughter, the painting and playwriting Penny Sycamore. "I'll seize it. I'm a theatre creature. He's of an era that you don't want to be disconnected from."
When director Scott Ellis was offered the job, his first question was, "Well, who's doing Grandpa?" When he heard it was Jones, he signed on. "I felt you can't do it unless you have a great grandfather," said Ellis.