The theatre world lost one of its greatest writers with the passing of Neil Simon in August, so New Theatre’s programming of Broadway Bound to round off 2018 holds a certain piquancy, and an opportunity for Sydney theatre lovers to reacquaint themselves with his comic genius.
The final play in Neil Simon’s quasi-autobiographical trilogy (preceded by Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues), Broadway Bound continues the story of young Eugene Jerome – an aspiring comedy writer with dreams of a career in radio.
It’s 1949 and Eugene and his brother-cum-writing partner are stuck in the wilds of Brooklyn, with their increasingly remote father, disillusioned mother, and unreconstructed socialist grandfather. Meanwhile, their mother’s sister, who has ‘married well’ and now lives the good live on Park Avenue – a betrayal of her working-class roots in the eyes of her father – is attempting to reconcile her and Kate’s parents.
Life in this hard scrabble, working-class Jewish household is an incessant round of baiting and bickering. But when the boys use their family as fodder for their comedy scripts, they learn early lessons in compassion and artistic integrity. Simon’s reverie is bittersweet and nostalgic, but never sentimental. He chart’s Eugene’s coming-of-age and the family dynamics with truth, humanity and great humour.
A huge fan of Neil Simon’s work, director Rosane McNamara states: “I love the plays of Neil Simon for their humour and heart. Having spent a lot of time in Brooklyn New York, I’m used to, and love, the Jewish humour typified in Simon’s work. It’s an ironic take on the world, forged from hardship displacement and persecution.”
“This typically American humour was fashioned by a Jewish immigrant community in the vaudeville halls of early 20th century New York and it has flourished ever since on radio, movies and television and in stand-up cabarets.”
“I’m hoping that audiences will both revel in the deliciousness of this quintessential American style of humour and will also feel for these characters, dealing with issues both as a family and as a community,” she adds.
McNamara directs a stellar cast including Les Asmussen (Australia Day), Brett Heath (August: Osage County), Patrick Holman (The Lieutenant of Inishmore), Suzann James (making her New Theatre debut), and Susan Jordan and Simon Lee (Nell Gwynn).
The creative team features set design by Allan Walpole (Privates on Parade), lighting design by Mehran Mortezaei (Queer Fringe @ The New), costume design by David Marshall-Martin (The Women) and sound design by David Cashman (August: Osage County).
Marvin Neil Simon was an American playwright, screenwriter and author. He wrote more than 30 plays and nearly the same number of movie screenplays, mostly adaptations of his plays. He has received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer, and in 1983 became the only living playwright to have a New York theatre, the Neil Simon Theatre, named in his honour.
Notable credits include: Come Blow Your Horn, Little Me, Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Sweet Charity, Plaza Suite, Promises, Promises, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, The Sunshine Boys, They’re Playing Our Song, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Rumors, Lost in Yonkers, The Goodbye Girl, Laughter on the 23rd Floor and The Dinner Party, amongst others.
Director: Rosane McNamara Featuring: Les Asmussen, Brett Heath, Patrick Holman, Suzann James, Susan Jordan, Simon Lee Set Designer: Allan Walpole Lighting Designer: Mehran Mortezaei Costume Designer: David Marshall-Martin Sound Designer: David Cashman Assistant Director: Martin Kelly Production Manager: Louise Fischer Stage Manager: Jo Jewitt Operator: Ricci Costa
New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown
Season: 15 November – 15 December 2018 (previews: 13 & 14 November)
Information and Bookings: www.newtheatre.org.au
Image: New Theatre presents Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound – photo by Bob Seary