Brooks Atkinson Theatre, (11/18/2004 - 4/17/2005)

First Preview: Nov 03, 2004
Opening Date: Nov 18, 2004
Closing Date: Apr 17, 2005
Total Previews: 17
Total Performances: 173

Category: Play, Drama, Original, Broadway

Opening Night Production Staff

Produced by Boyett Ostar Productions, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Jean Doumanian, Stephanie McClelland, Arielle Tepper, Amy Nederlander, Eric Falkenstein and Roy Furman

Originally produced by The National Theatre of Great Britain

Written by Michael Frayn

Directed by Michael Blakemore; Associate Director: Jenny Eastop

Scenic Design by Peter J. Davison; Costume Design by Sue Wilmington; Associate Costume Design: Scott Traugott; Assistant Costume Design: Philip Heckman; Lighting Design by Mark Henderson; Associate Lighting Design: Daniel Walker; Sound Design by Neil Alexander; Associate Sound Design: Christopher Cronin

General Manager: 101 Productions, Ltd.; Company Manager: Shawn M. Fertitta

Production Stage Manager: David Hyslop; Technical Supervisor: David Benken; Stage Manager: Deirdre McCrane

Press Representative: Boneau / Bryan-Brown; Casting: Jim Carnahan; Marketing: HHC Marketing; Advertising: SPOTCo, Inc.; Photographer: Don Purdue

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Opening Night Cast

James NaughtonWilly Brandt
Richard ThomasGünter Guillaume
Michael CumpstyArno Kretschmann
Robert ProskyHerbert Wehner
Terry BeaverReinhard Wilke
John DossettHelmut Schmidt
Julian GambleUlrich Bauhaus
John Christopher JonesHans-Dietrich Genscher
Richard MasurHorst Ehmke
Michele PawkWoman's Voice
Recorded voice only
Lee WilkofGünther Nollau

Standby: Tony Carlin (Günter Guillaume, Ulrich Bauhaus), Paul O'Brien (Arno Kretschmann, Horst Ehmke, Reinhard Wilke), Martin Shakar (Günther Nollau, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Herbert Wehner) and Ray Virta (Helmut Schmidt, Willy Brandt)

Awards and Nominations

Tony Award®

 2005 Best Play [nominee] 

Produced by Boyett Ostar Productions, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Jean Doumanian, Stephanie McClelland, Arielle Tepper, Amy Nederlander, Eric Falkenstein and Roy Furman; Written by Michael Frayn

Drama Desk Award

 2005 Outstanding New Play [nominee] 

Produced by Boyett Ostar Productions, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., Jean Doumanian, Stephanie McClelland, Arielle Tepper, Amy Nederlander, Eric Falkenstein and Roy Furman; Written by Michael Frayn

Reviews


AP: "Bland 'Democracy' Hits Broadway"

Intrigue has never seemed so gray, and that may be the intent. But grayness of another sort pervades the American premiere of Michael Frayn's "Democracy," a thoughtful, intelligent, well-made play trapped here in a bland, personality-free production.

The drama, which opened Thursday at Broadway's Brooks Atkinson Theatre, was a big hit in London, but the trans-Atlantic crossing, featuring an all-Yankee cast, has, unfortunately, diluted its impact.

What's left to savor in director Michael Blakemore's curious production is the skill with which Frayn, author of "Noises Off" and "Copenhagen," has put together a political tale in which the outcome is pretty much known from the start but still keeps us in suspense.

Part historical drama, part human interest story and part spy thriller, the playwright juggles these plot strands with considerable finesse.

At the center of "Democracy" is Willy Brandt, postwar West Germany's first left-of-center chancellor and the architect for opening relations with the East - not only with the Soviet Union, but East Germany as well.

And watching Brandt's every move is his trusted assistant, the ever loyal Gunter Guillaume, who's also a spy for the East Germans. Theirs is a strange cat-and-mouse relationship, in which the cat and mouse come to genuinely like each other. They are the kind of showy roles that give two actors the chance to shine.

Roger Allam (as Brandt) and Conleth Hill (Guillaume) starred in the London production to great acclaim; in New York, Brandt is played by James Naughton and Guillaume by Richard Thomas.

Naughton, perfectly coifed to look weirdly like Bill Clinton, gives a wooden, detached performance, unable to capture what made Brandt the outsized, magnetic personality he must have been.

Thomas fares better as the smarmy, obsequious Guillaume, a lower-level party functionary suddenly given proximity to Brandt during the time Brandt was in office (1969 to 1974, when the spy scandal drove him from power).

Yet even though Guillaume is the play's most fully realized character, Thomas comes off as something of a cipher, never finding the ambiguity and the anguish in a man spying on a leader he eventually grows to admire.

Around them swirl a coterie of party and government officials, the men who do the wheeling and dealing to make sure democracy works and keeps them in power. Despite the presence of some formidable character actors (chief among them the wonderful, doughy-faced Robert Prosky as a practical party loyalist), they toil anonymously -- interchangeable, dark-suited fellows who never develop personalities of their own.

Guillaume consults with an East German operative (played by Michael Cumpsty) who sits on the side of the stage and banters with his spy. Their conversations are cleverly used to identify the other players in the drama and provide a framework for the drama that quickly moves from one event to the next.

Despite the disappointing performances, there's still Frayn's considerable play to ponder.

"Let me tell you what I've learned from bitter experience about democracy. The more of it you dare, the tighter the grip you have to keep on it," says Prosky's character in one of the evening's more telling observations.

If only the actors had dared a little more, this "Democracy" could have broken free and flown into theatrical glory.


AP
11/18/2004

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