Winter Garden Theatre, (2/03/1982 - 5/23/1982)

First Preview: Jan 29, 1982
Opening Date: Feb 03, 1982
Closing Date: May 23, 1982
Total Previews: 6
Total Performances: 123

Category: Play, Drama, Tragedy, Revival, Broadway
Description: A Tragedy presented in Two Acts
Setting: Venice and Cyprus.

Opening Night Production Staff

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

Produced by Barry & Fran Weissler; Produced in association with CBS Video Enterprises; Produced by arrangement with Don Gregory

Originally produced by The American Shakespeare Theatre (Richard Horner: General Mangement, Peter Coe: Artistic Director)

Written by William Shakespeare; Incidental music by Stanley Silverman

Directed by Peter Coe

Scenic Design by David Chapman; Costume Design by Robert Fletcher; Lighting Design by Marc B. Weiss; Hair Design by Patrik D. Moreton; Assistant to Mr. Weiss: Carol Rubinstein; Assistant to Mr. Fletcher: John Boyt and Bill Alvarez; Assistant to Mr. Chapman: Michael Miller, Mark Haack and John Rabolvsky

General Manager: NAMCO; Company Manager: James A. Gerald

Production Stage Manager: Thomas Kelly; Stage Manager: Dianne Trulock and Frank Hartenstein; Assistant Stage Mgr: Randy Kovitz; Production Coordinator: Alecia A. Parker

Fights staged by B. H. Barry; Casting: Meg Simon and Fran Kumin; Fight Captain: Randy Kovitz; Assistant to the Director: Elliott Woodruff; Vocal and Interpretive Coach: Brendan Barry; General Press Representative: Seymour Krawitz; Press Representative: Patricia Krawitz and Robert W. Larkin; Advertising: Lawrence Weiner and Associates and Hy Jacobs; Photographer: Martha Swope

Opening Night Cast

James Earl JonesOthello
Christopher PlummerIago
Dianne WiestDesdemona
(Jan 29, 1982 - Apr 11, 1982)
Kim BemisHerald
Robert BurrDuke of Venice
Graeme CampbellRoderigo
(Jan 29, 1982 - Mar 07, 1982)
Richard DixGratiano
Kelsey GrammerCassio
Randy KovitzServant to Brabantio
Patricia MauceriBianca
Harry S. MurphyGentleman of Cyprus
Ellen NewmanServant to Brabantio
Aideen O'KellyEmilia
Robert OusleyGentleman of Cyprus
Servant to Brabantio
David SabinBrabantio
Raymond SkippLodovico
Bern SundstedtGentleman of Cyprus
Servant to Brabantio

Understudies: Kim Bemis (Gratiano, Lodovico), Robert Burr (Iago), Randy Kovitz (Cassio, Gentleman of Cyprus, Montano), Harry S. Murphy (Brabantio), Ellen Newman (Desdemona, Emilia), Robert Ousley (Duke of Venice, Montano), Bern Sundstedt (Cassio, Herald, Roderigo, Soldier) and Mel Winkler (Othello)

Awards and Nominations

Tony Award®

 1982 Best Actor in Play [nominee] 

Christopher Plummer

winner 1982 Reproduction (Play or Musical) [winner] 

Produced by Barry & Fran Weissler; Produced in association with CBS Video Enterprises

Drama Desk Award

winner 1982 Outstanding Actor in a Play [winner] 

Christopher Plummer

 1982 Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play [nominee] 

Aideen O'Kelly

 1982 Outstanding Costume Design [nominee] 

Robert Fletcher


New York Daily News: "A New, Old Moor"

Their scenes alone together crackle, and there's no doubt about it: James Earl Jones is a majestic Othello, and his portrayal of the noble Moor, a part he has played on several occasions, has grown richer with the years. Yet as often happens in productions of "Othello," the latest of which came to the Winter Garden last evening, it is the Iago, in this case Christopher Plummer's, who holds us spellbound.

It is a performance, sleek and nimble and beautifully poised, that rises to inspired heights in its malevolence, and with an edge of manic humor that, along with Plummer's own chiseled features, brings to mind John Barrymore in his filmed Shakespeare. The actor sets the Winter Garden stage ablaze.

Jones' magnificent-looking Othello is, oddly, most compelling in his gentler moments, in the imposing warrior's almost childlike devotion to Desdemona, and in the deathbed scene when his tenderness and regret over the act he is about to commit are poignantly expressed. For all his commanding presence, Jones is less assured elsewhere, particularly in his speech, which tends toward the oracular even while we watch this honorable and trusting men of action being duped. His seizures, the sudden angers and the epileptic fit, are theatrically effective but a bit too studied.

This is the American Shakespeare Theater production that began its career last summer in Stratford, Conn., and has arrived here after a lengthy tour and many changes. In a program insert, the original director, Peter Brook, notes that after returning to his native England following the Washington opening some time ago, the production was left in the hands of Zoe Caldwell, under whose direction there have been changes in cast, scenery and lighting.

Not having seen the Stratford performance, I am unable to draw comparisons. There have been a number of turnovers in the role of Desdemona, the part finally having come to rest with Dianne Wiest, an accomplished actress and an unusually appealing Desdemona, particularly fine in her vibrant and insistent efforts on behalf of the ill-used Cassio.

Aideen O'Kelly is an effective Emilia, though betraying perhaps too much intelligence for a woman who allows her contemptuous husband (Plummer's scorn is positively abrasive) to use that purloined hankie for a flying carpet for so long, a flight leading to his own doom as well as that of so many others. It is a doom in which Plummer's Iago almost acquiesces as a natural, even relieved, result of his own self-hatred, stronger than his hatred for the master who, valuing him as an indispensable adviser and confidant, favors Cassio at promotion time.

The gullible and essentially commonplace Cassio is convincingly set forth by Kelsey Grammer. In other roles, Graeme Campbell as Iago's chief pawn Roderigo, David Sabin as Desdemona's father, Robert Burr as both the Cyprus governor and Duke of Venice, Patricia Mauceri as Cassio's strumpet Bianca, and Raymond Skipp as Lodovico give acceptable performances - especially Sabin.

The staging is fleet and clearcut in a tall setting, a catwalk halfway up the back, consisting mostly of ever-shifting drapes and pieces of furniture. Robert Fletcher's costumes are first-rate, and the lighting is generally apt.

It is an "Othello" on a grand design with moments of excitement unmatched on any other local stage.

New York Daily News

New York Post: "A Noble 'Othello'"

Who is the key actor in Shakespeare's Othello? The obvious answer is Othello himself, that typical Shakespearean hero of tragic destiny felled by a fatal weakness, locked in temporary madness, his nobility o'erthrown. Yet Othello is not truly the key to the play.

He is a puppet of the most compelling majesty, a lion and bull by turn, but the puppet-master is undoubtedly his tempter, the Machiavellian Iago, who also serves as a savage bolt of malevolence shot into the blue of the play.

It is the recognition of this that makes Peter Coe's otherwise modestly unadventurous staging of Othello, which opened last night at the Winter Garden Theater, so stirring. That and two extraordinarily effective performances by James Earl Jones as the noble Moor and Christopher Plummer as his ignoble adversary. This is acting of great stature and brilliant imagination.

The production opened - in a presumably similar version - at the American Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, Conn., last summer. It now has a new setting - a usefully utilitarian affair of ramps and draped hangings by David Chapman - and has been on a national tour for six months. During that tour the production was supervised by Zoe Caldwell.

In all, this Othello is not a considerable addition to the stage history of the play. This matters not at all. In Othello you can go a remarkable distance with two superb actors in the leading roles, and here Jones and Plummer, both individually and in the most harmonious consort, create theatrical magic.

The production is about jealousy - even more than most readings of the play. Right at the beginning Iago's jealousy of Othello (whom he fears has seduced his wife, Emilia) is stressed. Iago's motive here is not pique at being passed over for promotion in favor of his rival Cassio, whom he certainly envies, or even a quest for advancement. No, it is pure revenge - but revenge on a scale that outgrows its original motivation.

The evil of the play, this dark journey into jealousy's "mines of sulphur," is adroitly orchestrated by Plummer's Iago. But as his success becomes more and more evident, this obsequious, bullying master sergeant watches the results not only with glee but also surprised amazement. His plan is actually working - and far better than even he envisaged.

Iago's central position is symbolized in the production by a couple of occasions when he speaks his conniving soliloquies, those paeans of simple villainy, and the stage picture freezes around him. He moves through the play's web like a spider in its habitat, spinning his spells, planning his monstrosities.

How wonderful Plummer is here! This is a performance of Olivier-like complexity and definition. The tired military bearing, the slight cringe of bitterness, the rasping wit, the volcanic shifts of mood, I have never seen any Iago - Peter Finch with Orson Welles, perhaps? - of such intellectual ferocity.

Jones has the problem of handling this untameable virtuosity. He does so by letting Plummer almost literally bounce off him. While Plummer darts like a spider and writhes like a snake - one minute a twisted Hamlet, the next a sardonic Richard III - Jones is almost marmoreal in his statuesque nobility. His great voice, with its rolling vowels and even-toned passion, dominates the poetry. His besotted love for Desdemona becomes an imperial folly, and even murder and suicide seem inevitable acts of a madness that has a grandeur that Iago cannot comprehend.

The rest of the performances range from the pleasantly adequate to the acceptably mediocre. In fact, Aideen O'Kelly's well-practiced and carefully focused Emilia is attractive and a good deal more than adequate. Dianne Wiest looks a mite too old for Desdemona's timorous innocence, but nothing becomes her like her death, and here her pathos rises to tragedy. Kelsey Grammer is a likable but essentially dull Cassio (so probably was Cassio himself), while Graeme Campbell makes an interesting, bizarrely rough-hewn Roderigo.

Yet the play, as at the Winter Garden, stands or falls by its Iago and Othello. Coe (and Miss Caldwell) have seen well to the speed of the play, and Jones and Plummer are caught unforgettably in the velocity of its vortex. Here is Shakespeare at its conventional best, and a very considerable adornment to the Broadway stage. Bravo Jones, Bravo Plummer, and, most of all, Bravo Shakespeare!

New York Post

Replacement/Transfer Info

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

Winter Garden Theatre

(2/3/1982 - 5/23/1982)
Assistant Stage Mgr: Neil Einleger.


Cecilia Hart
Desdemona (Apr 13, 1982 - May 23, 1982)
Stephen Markle
Roderigo (Mar 9, 1982 - May 23, 1982)
Edwin J. McDonough
Gentleman of Cyprus
Servant to Brabantio
Ellen Newman
Jana Schneider
Servant to Brabantio

Understudies: Edwin J. McDonough (Duke of Venice, Montano), Ellen Newman (Bianca), Jana Schneider (Bianca), Bern Sundstedt (Duke of Venice).

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