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Taper's 'Clybourne Park' heading to Broadway after all

The head of Jujamcyn Theaters assures the production's New York run after producer Scott Rudin pulls out.

February 04, 2012|By Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times
  • The cast rehearses a 1959-set scene in Bruce Norris' abrasively funny and fiendishly provocative play at the Mark Taper Forum. The play fills in the story of the Chicago house in Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun."
The cast rehearses a 1959-set scene in Bruce Norris' abrasively funny… (Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles…)

The cheering Thursday night at the Mark Taper Forum began backstage, half an hour before the house lights went down for Act 1 of "Clybourne Park."

That's when Jordan Roth, head of the company that owns Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre, phoned the cast members to assure them that they'll still have jobs after Feb. 26, when the show will end its L.A. run. The withdrawal of a key producer earlier this week had threatened to abort the Taper production's transfer to Broadway.

Roth, the president of Jujamcyn Theaters, told the cast he had solidified the show's financing sufficiently to say the production will have a Broadway run after all.

The cast took the call over a speaker phone, Michael Ritchie, Center Theatre Group's artistic director, said Friday. "There was a loud cheer, many 'thank yous,' and then everybody went back to getting ready for the performance."

The seven actors and director Pam MacKinnon have been with "Clybourne Park" since February 2010, when it premiered in an off-Broadway production by Playwrights Horizons, then went on to London before coming to the Taper .

A well-publicized tiff between playwright Bruce Norris, who wrote the acclaimed sequel to Lorraine Hansberry's classic 1959 drama, "A Raisin in the Sun," and producer Scott Rudin had threatened the planned next step — and with it an opportunity to bag a 2012 Tony Award to go with Norris' 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama and a 2011 Olivier Award for best new play on the London commercial stage.

The news broke Wednesday that Rudin had pulled his cash from the production — not because of anything to do with how "Clybourne Park" should be staged or sold on Broadway, but because Norris, who's also an actor, had turned down a part in a Rudin-produced HBO adaptation of Jonathan Franzen's novel "The Corrections."

Rick Miramontez, a spokesman for the Broadway production team, said "Clybourne Park" will open in New York in time for the April 26 deadline for Tony Awards consideration. He didn't have answers as to how much money had to be raised to fill the hole created by Rudin's withdrawal, or who has stepped into the breach. "The complete list of producers will be announced soon," he said, and it will include Jujamcyn and two nonprofit partners, Center Theatre Group and New York's Lincoln Center Theatre, which will offer first choice of seats for "Clybourne Park" to its regular audience.

Roth issued a brief public statement Thursday night, saying "Clybourne Park is on.... It is a true privilege to bring such a fiercely provocative and wildly funny work to Broadway audiences."

Ritchie has said that the play is the Taper's hottest draw in recent years; a spokeswoman said Thursday that it has played to 77% capacity in the 739-seat house.

"We are clearly pleased that Jordan Roth and his team were able to move so quickly and aggressively to put this show back on the path to a further life," Ritchie said. "We are extremely proud of this play and production and are thrilled that it will have the chance to be seen by an even larger audience."

Among its possible Tony Awards competitors — nominees won't be announced until spring — will be "The Mountaintop," Katori Hall's drama about the last night of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, which won the 2010 Olivier new play award; Richard Bean's British comedy "One Man, Two Guvnors," which is scheduled to open on Broadway in April; David Ives' "Venus in Furs," which riffs on sadomasochism; and "Other Desert Cities," Jon Robin Baitz's drama about a troublesome family holiday in Palm Springs.

In "A Raisin in the Sun" — currently playing at CTG's Kirk Douglas Theatre to dovetail with "Clybourne Park" — a family of Chicago blacks, the Youngers, faces a crisis over whether to buy a home in suburban Clybourne Park, or knuckle under to the racism of their prospective neighbors, who've offered to pay them off to keep out.

The first act of "Clybourne Park," also set in 1959, centers on the white family — unseen in Hansberry's drama — that's willing to sell to the Youngers. Act 2, 50 years later, finds a new generation of Youngers dealing with the arrival of gentrifying whites who portend a reversal of 1960s white flight from the neighborhood.

mike.boehm@latimes.com

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