Trafalgar Theatre, (4/17/1979 - 10/27/1979)

First Preview: Apr 07, 1979
Opening Date: Apr 17, 1979
Closing Date: Oct 27, 1979
Total Previews: 9
Total Performances: 223

Category: Play, Drama, Original, Broadway
Setting: A hospital in England.

Opening Night Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by The Nederlander Organization, Ray Cooney and Mr. Marsh

Produced by Emanuel Azenberg, James M. Nederlander and Ray Cooney; Produced by arrangement with Mermaid Theatre Trust

Written by Brian Clark

Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg

Scenic Design by Alan Tagg; Costume Design by Pearl Somner; Lighting Design by Tharon Musser

General Manager: Jose Véga; Company Manager: Laurel Ann Wilson

Production Stage Manager: Martin Herzer; Stage Manager: Cathy B. Blaser; Assistant Stage Mgr: Dianne Trulock; Technical Supervisor: Arthur Siccardi

Cover art by Fraver

Press Representative: Bill Evans, Howard Atlee, Claudia McAllister and Jim Baldassare; Production Assistant: Gary Zabinski; Advertising: The Entertainment Group of J. Walter Thompson; Casting: Theatre Now, Inc., Julie Hughes and Barry Moss; Photographer: Martha Swope

For her effort and support, Emanuel Azenberg & Iron Mountain Prods express special thanks to Dasha Epstein

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Opening Night Cast

Tom Conti
Broadway debut
Ken Harrison
Jean MarshDr. Scott
Philip BoscoDr. Emerson
Veronica CastangMrs. Boyle
Richard DeFabeesAndrew Eden
James HigginsDr. Barr
Will HussungMr. Justice Millhouse
Damien LeakeJohn
Russell LeibPeter Kershaw
Beverly MaySister Anderson
Peter McRobbieDr. Paul Travers
Pippa PearthreeKay Sadler
Kenneth WelshPhilip Hill

Standby: Richard DeFabees (Ken Harrison)

Understudies: Catherine Gaffigan (Dr. Scott, Mrs. Boyle, Sister Anderson), Edmond Genest (Andrew Eden, Dr. Paul Travers, Peter Kershaw, Philip Hill), James Higgins (Dr. Emerson, Mr. Justice Millhouse), Russell Leib (Dr. Barr) and Dianne Trulock (Kay Sadler)

Awards and Nominations

Tony Award®

 1979 Best Play [nominee] 

Written by Brian Clark; Produced by Emanuel Azenberg, James M. Nederlander and Ray Cooney

winner 1979 Best Actor in Play [winner] 

Tom Conti

 1979 Best Direction of a Play [nominee] 

Michael Lindsay-Hogg

Drama Desk Award

 1979 Outstanding Actor in a Play [nominee] 

Tom Conti


New York Daily News: "Here's a 'Life' that's worth cheering about"

Talk about talking heads! Tom Conti's is simply devastating. And thanks to it and Brian Kelly's surgically clean prose strokes, "Whose Life Is It Anyway?," which arrived at the Trafalgar last evening, is something to cheer about.

Cheer about? This is a play about a hospital patient paralyzed from the neck down: a witty and intelligent man, a sculptor rapt in his work and the sorcery of women; a man unlucky enough to have survived a terrible car accident and, now, after six months of mending, to be left with a talking, mobile head and that's all. And now all he wants from life, wants desperately, is the right to die.

Cheers? Of course. They're always reserved for the valiant and never boring ones who fight to win against all odds, whether it's a heavily-armed enemy outpost in the field or equally strong, well-intentioned opposition within hospital walls.

For two hours, broken by an intermission, we regard Ken Harrison's (Conti's) bright, articulate, entertaining head as it lolls, wags, winks, grimaces and does all the many thing heads can do while it rests above a severed spinal cord and jokes outrageously, though in truth ashamedly, with nurses and others in a provincial Catholic hospital, all the while setting his carefully thought out plan in motion and pursuing it to its finish.

Clark's script, which began its own life as a television play, is spare and incisive. Well, mostly spare. Now and again, bits of tangential byplay - a budding romance between a nurse in training and an orderly, and another between Harrison's solicitor and the female doctor in charge of his case, to cite two main examples - are introduced, and while they seem to be shrewd conveniences, they are also entirely germane and dramatically necessary breathing spaces for a glued spectator.

Conti, making his American stage debut in a work in which he triumphed in London, has a personality so winning that the audience seemed more than anxious to grant him his every wish, including death. More important, he has all the skills to go with it, including great range. Jean Marsh is fine as the cool and lovely therapist whose interest in his case becomes perhaps too absorbing. There are other excellent performances by Philip Bosco, as the hospital's chief consultant and head of intensive care, a man who sees his duty as saving life, no matter how limited its scope; by Kenneth Welsh as Emerson's young and firm-minded solicitor; by Beverly May, as the wing's efficient Sister in charge; and, by, in fact, everyone in a surprisingly sizable cast.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg has repeated his original precise and excellently-paced direction in Harrison's room and in the corridors and offices that fan out from this throbbing nerve center with Harrison's restless (except when drugged against his will) and pained eyes. Alan Tagg's scene design has also been preserved - a skeletal set with desks, chairs, bed, solid swinging doors at the rear and sides and imaginary corridors that the actors carefully thread in going from one room to another. Pearl Somner's costumes and Tharon Musser's lighting are enhancing factors.

A stunning evening, all around. And once this fellow Conti learns to walk (actually, he does take a curtain call, for actors will stop at nothing), no stage will be safe from his magnetic presence.

New York Daily News

Replacement/Transfer Info

The following people are credited as replacements or additions if they were not credited on opening night.

Trafalgar Theatre

(4/17/1979 - 10/27/1979)


Edmond Genest
Dr. Barr
James Higgins
Mr. Justice Millhouse

Understudies: F.J. O'Neil (Dr. Barr, Mr. Justice Millhouse).

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