American Airlines Theatre, (1/13/2011 - 6/26/2011)

First Preview: Dec 17, 2010
Opening Date: Jan 13, 2011
Closing Date: Jun 26, 2011
Total Previews: 30
Total Performances: 189

Category: Play, Comedy, Revival, Broadway
Setting: Algernon Moncrieff's rooms in Picadilly. The garden at the Manor House, Woolton. Morning-room at the Manor House, Woolton.

Opening Night Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes: Artistic Director; Harold Wolpert: Managing Director; Julia C. Levy: Executive Director; Gene Feist: Founding Director)

Produced by Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes: Artistic Director; Harold Wolpert: Managing Director; Julia C. Levy: Executive Director; Gene Feist: Founding Director)

Originally presented by The Stratford Shakespeare Festival

Written by Oscar Wilde; Original Music by Berthold Carrière

Directed by Brian Bedford; Assistant Director: Robert Beard

Scenic Design by Desmond Heeley; Costume Design by Desmond Heeley; Lighting Design by Duane Schuler; Sound Design by Drew Levy; Hair and Wig Design by Paul Huntley; Make-Up Design by Angelina Avallone; Associate Scenic Design: Michael Carnahan; Associate Costume Design: Devon Painter; Associate Lighting Design: Justin Partier; Associate Sound Design: Will Pickens; Assistant Scenic Design: Rachel Nemec and Shana Burns

Roundabout General Manager: Sydney Beers; General Manager: Rebecca Habel; Company Manager: Carly DiFulvio

Production Manager: Aurora Productions; Production Stage Manager: Robyn Henry; Stage Manager: Bryce McDonald

Casting: Jim Carnahan, C.S.A., Carrie Gardner, C.S.A. and Kate Boka, CSA; Roundabout Associate Artistic Director: Scott Ellis; Dialect Consultant: Elizabeth Smith; Roundabout Director of Development: Lynne Gugenheim Gregory; Roundabout Director of Marketing & Sales Promotion: David B. Steffen; Interactive Marketing: Situation Interactive; General Press Representative: Boneau / Bryan-Brown; Advertising: SPOTCo, Inc.; Photographer: Joan Marcus

Opening Night Cast

Brian BedfordLady Bracknell
Dana IveyMiss Prism
Miss Cardew's governess
(Dec 17, 2010 - Mar 20, 2011)
Paxton WhiteheadReverend Canon Chasuble, D.D.
Rector of Woolton
(Dec 17, 2010 - Mar 20, 2011)
Amanda Leigh CobbServant
Santino FontanaAlgernon Moncrieff
David FurrJohn Worthing, J.P.
Of the Manor House, Woolton, Hertfordshire
Tim MacDonaldMerriman
Butler to Mr. Worthing
Paul O'BrienLane
Mr. Moncrieff's man-servant
Charlotte ParryCecily Cardew
John Worthing's ward
Sara TophamHonorable Gwendolyn Fairfax
Lady Bracknell's daughter
(Dec 17, 2010 - Mar 20, 2011)

Understudies: Sean Arbuckle (Algernon Moncrieff, John Worthing, J.P.), Amanda Leigh Cobb (Cecily Cardew, Honorable Gwendolyn Fairfax), Colin McPhillamy (Lane, Merriman, Servant), Paul O'Brien (Reverend Canon Chasuble, D.D.) and Sandra Shipley (Lady Bracknell, Miss Prism)

Awards and Nominations

Tony Award®

 2011 Best Revival of a Play [nominee] 

Produced by Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes: Artistic Director; Harold Wolpert: Managing Director; Julia C. Levy: Executive Director; Gene Feist: Founding Director)

 2011 Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play [nominee] 

Brian Bedford

winner 2011 Best Costume Design of a Play [winner] 

Desmond Heeley

Drama Desk Award

 2011 Outstanding Revival of a Play [nominee] 

Produced by Roundabout Theatre Company (Todd Haimes: Artistic Director; Harold Wolpert: Managing Director; Julia C. Levy: Executive Director; Gene Feist: Founding Director)

winner 2011 Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play [winner] 

Brian Bedford

winner 2011 Outstanding Costume Design [winner] 

Desmond Heeley


AP: "The 'Importance' of Oscar Wilde proved again"

The sure sign of a good actress is that you forget, over the course of two hours, that the woman you are seeing is, in fact, a man.

Such is the case with Brian Bedford, who has adopted Lady Bracknell's haughty sensibility and her stern Victorian gowns in a terrific new Roundabout Theatre Company production of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" that opened Thursday.

While it's fashionable these days to have the monstrous Bracknell tackled by a man, Bedford never seems tempted by the drag casting to veer toward camp, even when served up some of the best Wildean lines. His lips perpetually pursed as if sucking on a lemon, Bedford scowls and peers imperiously without ever betraying his real chromosomal makeup, even winkingly.

Having a male actor in the role is perfectly in sync with a frothy comedy about false identity that takes huge swipes at the manners and mores of the upper crust in late 1800s England. While initially appearing as silly as a soap opera, Wilde's play is a sly slap at elite conceptions of truth and honesty, with hints at a homosexual subtext.

Bedford pulls double duty as both Bracknell and as the director of an excellent cast that features Dana Ivey as Miss Prism, Paxton Whitehead as the Rev. Canon Chasuble, Santino Fontana as Algernon Moncrieff, David Furr as John Worthing, Charlotte Parry as Cecily Cardew and Sara Topham as Gwendolen Fairfax.

The play concerns the double lives of two would-be bridegrooms who get caught in their own lies when each falls head-over-heels for two lovely young women. The plot, though, isn't why this is a hysterical work. It's full of Wilde's wit and wordplay, and Bedford makes each shine.

The zingers fly: "To lose one parent," Lady Bracknell says at one point, "may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness." Algernon offers another: "All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."

Building much character within these lines isn't easy, but the pair of lovers by the end come across as more than mere vapid playthings. Fontana plays Algernon as a sly rogue, while Furr is a jumpy and preoccupied Worthing. Their verbal jousting comes to quite a yeasty apex over a basket of muffins.

Parry, as the naive and yet forceful Cecily, and Topham, as the glamorous but quick-to-scrap Gwendolen (she is Lady Bracknell's daughter, after all), have less material to plumb but still emerge as women with whom you should not trifle. Ivey is wonderfully brittle as the imperious Miss Prism, though sometimes hard to hear. Whitehead, as her crush, is delicious as a bookish man who is adorably clueless.

Wilde was modestly inclined to downplay the importance of this comic masterpiece. To a friend, he admitted, "The real charm of the play, if it is to have a charm, must be in the dialogue. The plot is slight, but, I think, adequate." To another, he wrote: "It is written by a butterfly for butterflies."

He originally subtitled his play "A Serious Comedy for Trivial People" but changed it to "A Trivial Comedy for Serious People" to avoid the risk of offending theatergoers. Bedford clearly likes the original, and his production, which debuted in 2009 at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada, leaves Wilde's real targets in the audience, not on the stage.

Desmond Heeley's sets and costumes are - like the play - colorful and over-the-top. Stripes and bright bow ties and plaid and lovely Victorian gowns all compete for attention along with his two interior sets - packed with oversized vases, drapes and gilt-edged furniture - and one garden scene bursting with leaves and flowers. Heeley also hand-painted the curtain, which bears the initials "VR" for Victoria Regina.

"The Importance of Being Earnest" was Wilde's last play. Only weeks after it debuted in London to raves, Wilde would effectively be on trial for homosexuality and one of the world's greatest wits would soon be lost to prison.

As this production proves beautifully, his last play was no mere farce. Beneath the drag casting and the luxurious costumes and the confection of words, Wilde left a complex work for the ages.

"The truth is rarely pure and never simple," he quips through Algernon. "Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!"


New York Daily News: "Importance of Being Earnest review: Brian Bedford pulls off lady-like Bracknell for Oscar Wilde"

"The Importance of Being Earnest" turns 116 next month, and the old joker is surprisingly spry.

Though the new Broadway revival of Oscar Wilde's satire isn't quite a nonstop delight -- it takes too long to rev up -- it makes for an enjoyable evening.

The venerable stage vet Brian Bedford does double duty in this Roundabout presentation. He directs and plays stuffy Lady Bracknell, as he did last year in a Stratford Shakespeare Festival production.

The twisty plot in Wilde's sendup of Victorian ways is probably familiar. It spins around two young men who invent alter egos so they can do as they please.

Jack (David Furr), who's well-heeled but hobbled by a dubious lineage, creates a fictional bad-boy brother named Earnest. His freeloading friend Algernon (Santino Fontana) concocts a fake invalid friend Bunbury.

Complications ensue when Gwendolen (Sarah Topham), Lady Bracknell's daughter, and Jack's ward, Cecily (Charlotte Parry), both fall for the nonexistent Earnest.

Resolving fake identities -- and the matter of Jack's questionable roots -- provide good excuses to bat around colorful lines. The wordplay seems all the more vivid compared to the graying physical production. Did that pesky volcanic plume from last spring drift by?

If the scenery is puzzling, Bedford's cast is uniformly fine. Fontana's smiling personality, one that recalls Paul Rudd, makes him a standout. Dana Ivey adds silly severity as Miss Prism.

The cross-dressed Bedford, voice ranging from flutey to basso,  can make one word speak volumes -- as when responding to Jack's recollection of being found as a baby in a train station.

"Found," gasps Bracknell, as if to turn the lone syllable into a commentary on the importance of being well-bred.

New York Daily News

Replacement/Transfer Info

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

American Airlines Theatre

(1/13/2011 - 6/26/2011)
Stage Manager: Sara Cox Bradley.


Jessie Austrian
Honorable Gwendolyn Fairfax
Lady Bracknell's daughter
(Mar 22, 2011 - Jun 26, 2011)
Jayne Houdyshell
Miss Prism
Miss Cardew's governess
(Mar 22, 2011 - Jun 26, 2011)
Brian Murray
Reverend Canon Chasuble, D.D.
Rector of Woolton
(Mar 22, 2011 - Jun 26, 2011)

Understudies: Richard Gallagher (Algernon Moncrieff, John Worthing, J.P., Servant), Jeffrey Hayenga (Lane, Merriman, Reverend Canon Chasuble, D.D.).

View full site