A Nose for Poetry: Cyrano de Bergerac, With Douglas Hodge, Clémence Poésy, Patrick Page, Opens on Broadway
By Kenneth Jones
As if performing in an animated Baroque-era painting, Clémence Poésy, Patrick Page, Bill Buell, Kyle Soller and Tony Award winner Douglas Hodge star in the new Broadway production of Edmond Rostand's 1897 romantic verse drama Cyrano de Bergerac, opening Oct. 11 following previews from Sept. 14 at Roundabout Theatre Company's American Airlines Theatre.
Jamie Lloyd directs the clear, colloquial rhyming-verse translation by Ranjit Bolt. Lighting designer Japhy Weideman's ambient side lighting — which picks up the burnished browns and golds in the work of set and costume designer Soutra Gilmour — makes the staging's physical world seem like a 17th-century Velázquez canvas brought to life (the play is set in the mid-1600s, after all). It's a visually sweet world in the bittersweet life of a swashbuckling yet deformed hero whose love for a beautiful woman named Roxane is unrequited.
Hodge, who won the Tony as Best Actor in a Musical for playing Albin in the recent revival of La Cage aux Folles, plays the title character, Cyrano, the nobleman with poetry in his heart but an ugliness that precedes him. Audiences in previews have been shocked and delighted by one of the most surprising Broadway entrances in recent memory, with swaggering Hodge exploding onto the scene and hidden in darkness for several minutes before we see his bulbous — almost cancerous — nose. The sound you hear at play's end is not just the skittering of falling leaves in Lloyd's autumnal setting, but sniffles from moved playgoers.
Paris-born Poésy (Fleur Delacour in the "Harry Potter" movies, Eva Coupeau in "Gossip Girl") makes her Broadway debut as Roxane, Broadway vet Patrick Page (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, The Lion King) plays the romantic rival Comte De Guiche, Kyle Soller (Broadway debut) is the handsome but tongue-tied Christian, who woos Roxane with Cyrano's words. The cast also boasts Max Baker (Le Bret), Bill Buell (Ragueneau), Geraldine Hughes (Duenna & Marthe), Samuel Roukin (Valvert ), Peter Bradbury (Carbon de Castel-Jaloux), Mikaela Feely-Lehmann (Claire), Andy Grotelueschen (Montefleury & Friar), Frances Mercanti-Anthony (Amélie, Lise, Mother Marguérite), Tim McGeever (Lignière), Drew McVety (Man #2) and Ben Steinfeld (Musketeer).
Here's how Roundabout bills the 1897 French classic: "An enduring masterwork with some of the wittiest lines ever written for the stage, Cyrano de Bergerac is a clever and touching story about the power of love, the art of wordplay and the joy of finding what you've always wanted right under your nose. Cyrano's a nobleman with a head for poetry and a nose for miles. All of Paris adores him except for his true love Roxane, who can't see past his all-too-prominent facial feature. Instead, she falls for a handsome young cadet named Christian. But when Christian admits he's tongue-tied with Roxane, Cyrano gives him the romantic words guaranteed to win her heart. With Christian's looks and Cyrano's language, it's a foolproof plan! Or is it?"
Hodge was recently directed by Lloyd in a sold-out run in John Osborne's play Inadmissible Evidence at the Donmar Warehouse in London, for which he received an Olivier nomination. Lloyd was associate director of the Donmar from 2008 to 2011. His recent theatre credits include The Duchess of Malfi (Old Vic); She Stoops to Conquer (National, Olivier Theatre); The Faith Machine and The Pride (Royal Court; Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement for The Pride).
"He is a master of language," director Lloyd said of Hodge in a recent Playbill magazine article. "Cyrano is a play about words, about how you can use words to express something as intangible as love, with a capital L. Have you ever seen one of Doug's working scripts? No? They are full of postcards, images, sketches, drawings, anything that can help him bring it alive. How he juggles everything he does — actor, writer, director, father — I don't know, but he's great at all of it."
Lloyd added, "This is more than a swashbuckler or a rom-com, which is how it has often been played. It's highly unusual in that it's not naturalistic, it's not high drama, not low comedy, not Ibsen, not boulevard — and yet it is all of those things. It's richer, and more intensely political. It's a great work of art. Rostand is a voice against the morally corrupt, against the establishment, for the underdog. His Cyrano, because of his disfigurement, can speak for people everywhere around the world who are trying to find their own voice."
Tickets are available by calling Roundabout Ticket Services at (212) 719-1300, going online at roundabouttheatre.org or at the American Airlines box office at 227 W. 42nd Street.
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