Imperial Theatre, (3/14/1977 - 3/26/1977)

First Preview: Mar 14, 1977
Opening Date: Mar 14, 1977
Closing Date: Mar 26, 1977
Total Previews: 1
Total Performances: 11

Category: Play, Solo, Original, Broadway

Opening Night Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by The Shubert Organization (Gerald Schoenfeld: Chairman; Bernard B. Jacobs: President)

Produced by Emanuel Azenberg and Dasha Epstein

From the writings and speeches of Mark Twain; Writings and speeches of Mark Twain arranged and edited by Hal Holbrook

Directed by Hal Holbrook

Manager: Jose Véga; Company Manager: Earl Shendell

Production Supervisor: Bennett Thomson

Press Representative: Bill Evans; Press Associate: Susan Bell; Production Associate: Cathy Blaser; Assistant to the Producer: Leslie Butler; Press Assistant: Kevin Ottem; Production Assistant: Mary Jo Slater and Karen Wood; Advertising: The Blaine Thompson Company

Opening Night Cast

Hal HolbrookMark Twain


New York Daily News: "Holbrook's Twain back in rare form"

Last night, Hal Holbrook returned to Broadway -- for 12 performances only, alas -- with his "Mark Twain Tonight!," the only solo show in my experience that I can say has ever wholly delighted, warmed and enchanted me. Artfully miked, he's playing the Imperial, a house normally given over to musicals, and whether or not you've seen this portrayal before, you'll be passing up one of the most humorous, stimulating and engaging evenings available if you don't take advantage of it.

Holbrook's Twain, which was first exposed to New Yorkers in 1954 and in a raw state at a Village club called the Duplex, then five years later coalesced into an Off Broadway triumph and after TV exposure, reached Broadway in 1966, is deeper, richer and more uncanny than ever now. So much so, that one is half-convinced that Mark Twain is really a pen name for Hal Holbrook rather than Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

The identification is so complete that whereas the younger man took four hours applying his remarkable makeup, the now 50-year-old Holbrook can probably slap it on in three hours or less.

His program, which varies from performances to performance according to whim and the actor's need for some flexibility, is chosen from a list of several dozen excerpts from novels, short stories, notebooks, speeches, sketches and various other sources.

Last night's show was divided by an intermission, though there may or may not be one on other occasions, the program informs us. The first half was given over largely to tall tales, many of them leaning on violent deaths or near-deaths, including the story of a fellow who went astray in a carpet factory and got woven into a large rug.

But the second half, though it included its own share of tall stories, slipped into vivid, more touching and eventually more jaundiced reflections on the human experience, passing from a "Huckleberry Finn" excerpt to a hilarious description of Noah's Ark ending with his observation that if he had been there, he would have climbed aboard with an auger. Near the close, he questions the wisdom of killer man's existence, a form of life he considers lower than the housefly -- indeed, the very bottom of the scale. "Man is the only animal that blushes, or needs to," he remarks.

This is Twain at 70, in the midst of the administration of Teddy Roosevelt, whom he ridicules roundly, and while he was engaged in lecturing to students and others. He is a bit unsteady on his feet, inclined to nod now and then, relishing a large cigar he relights from time to time, pausing for long periods while he shuffles books on a table, tidies up, reflects, and passes uncertainly between the table and a lectern. But from time to time a fervor overcomes his prevailing sardonicism, which is always seasoned by wit.

He wears an off-white suit, a shock of white hair and a drooping mustache, as well as an always gracious comfortable and assured manner. But enough. We are indeed in Twain's presence in this flawless characterization, and the two hours spent with him is a rare theatrical experience.

New York Daily News

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