Vivian Beaumont Theatre, (4/17/2014 - 6/15/2014)

First Preview: Mar 20, 2014
Opening Date: Apr 17, 2014
Closing Date: Jun 15, 2014
Total Previews: 31
Total Performances: 67

Category: Play, Original, Broadway
Setting: 1914-1930. New York and environs.

Opening Night Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by Lincoln Center Theater (André Bishop: Producing Artistic Director; Adam Siegel: Managing Director; Hattie K. Jutagir, Executive Director of Development and Planning)

Produced by Lincoln Center Theater (André Bishop: Producing Artistic Director; Adam Siegel: Managing Director; Hattie K. Jutagir, Executive Director of Development and Planning)

Written by James Lapine; From the autobiography by Moss Hart; Original Music by Louis Rosen

Directed by James Lapine; Choreographed by Mimi Lieber; Associate Director: Wes Grantom

Scenic Design by Beowulf Boritt; Costume Design by Jane Greenwood; Lighting Design by Ken Billington; Sound Design by Dan Moses Schreier; Hair and Wig Design by Tom Watson; Make-Up Design by Jon Carter; Associate Scenic Design: Alexis Distler; Associate Costume Design: Daniel Urlie; Associate Lighting Design: John Demous; Associate Sound Design: Joshua Reid

General Manager: Jessica Niebanck; Company Manager: Matthew Markoff; Associate Gen. Mgr: Meghan Lantzy; Assistant Co. Mgr: Jessica Fried

Production Stage Manager: Rick Steiger; Production Manager: Jeff Hamlin; Associate Prod. Mgr: Paul Smithyman; Assistant Stage Mgr: Janet Takami and Christopher R. Munnell

General Press Representative: Philip Rinaldi; LCT Director of Casting: Daniel Swee; LCT Director of Marketing: Linda Mason Ross; Dialect and Vocal Coach: Deborah Hecht; Fight direction by Thomas Schall; Advertising: SPOTCo, Inc.; Marketing: SPOTCo, Inc.; Digital: SPOTCo, Inc.; Photographer: Joan Marcus; Video Services: Fresh Produce Productions; Videographer: Frank Basile

Opening Night Cast

Bob AriEnsemble
Bill ArmyEddie Chodorov
Will BrillDavid Allen
Dore Schary
Once In a Lifetime
Laurel CasilloRoz
Chuck CooperWally
Charles Gilpin
Max Siegel
Santino FontanaMoss Hart
Steven KaplanIrving Gordon
Will LeBowAugustus Pitou
Jed Harris
Mimi LieberLillie Hart
Once In a Lifetime
Charlotte MaierPhyllis
Aline MacMahon
Once In a Lifetime
Noah MarloweEnsemble
Andrea MartinAunt Kate
Frieda Fishbein
Beatrice Kaufman
Greg McFaddenEnsemble
Deborah OffnerBelle
Mrs. Rosenbloom
Lance RobertsEnsemble
Matthew SaldivarJoseph Regan
Once In a Lifetime
Matthew SchechterMoss Hart
Bernie Hart
Tony ShalhoubMoss Hart
Barnett Hart
George S. Kaufman
Jonathan SpiveyEnsemble
Wendy Rich StetsonEnsemble
Bob StillmanPriestly Morrison
Sam Harris
Amy WarrenMrs. Henry B. Harris
Jean Dixon
Once In a Lifetime

Understudies: Bob Ari (Augustus Pitou, Barnett Hart, George S. Kaufman, Jed Harris, Moss Hart), Steven Kaplan (Moss Hart), Noah Marlowe (Bernie Hart, Moss Hart), Greg McFadden (Jerry, Joseph Regan, Priestly Morrison, Sam Harris), Lance Roberts (Charles Gilpin, Max Siegel, Wally), Jonathan Spivey (David Allen, Dore Schary, Eddie Chodorov, George, Irving Gordon), Wendy Rich Stetson (Aline MacMahon, Jean Dixon, Mary, May, Mrs. Henry B. Harris, Phyllis, Roz) and Amy Warren (Frieda Fishbein)

Awards and Nominations

Tony Award®

 2014 Best Play [nominee] 

Written by James Lapine; Produced by Lincoln Center Theater (André Bishop: Producing Artistic Director; Adam Siegel: Managing Director; Hattie K. Jutagir, Executive Director of Development and Planning)

 2014 Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play [nominee] 

Tony Shalhoub

winner 2014 Best Scenic Design of a Play [winner] 

Beowulf Boritt

 2014 Best Costume Design of a Play [nominee] 

Jane Greenwood

 2014 Best Sound Design of a Play [nominee] 

Sound Design by Dan Moses Schreier

Drama Desk Award

 2014 Outstanding Sound Design in a Play [nominee] 

Sound Design by Dan Moses Schreier


AP: "'Act One' Is a Sweet Ode to the Theater"

What's happening now at the Vivian Beaumont Theater was inevitable, really.

Lincoln Center Theater has turned Moss Hart's cracking memoir "Act One" into a rollicking play, which, if you think about it, is the natural medium for a man who lived and breathed the theater, what he called "a lifelong infection."

Hart was a Broadway giant during the 1930s-'50s, directing "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot" and collaborating with George S. Kaufman on such hits as "The Man Who Came to Dinner" and "You Can't Take It With You."

It makes perfect sense that his autobiography is onstage. And no less a modern theater icon than James Lapine has adapted and directed the play, using the stage thrillingly in a way the book could not.

The sweet "Act One," which opened Thursday at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, faithfully and chronologically charts Hart's rise from poverty in the Bronx to co-writing with Kaufman "Once In a Lifetime" in 1930, his first Broadway hit.

But it's of course more than that: The majority of the 22 actors play multiple parts, jumping in and out of characters and costumes while the bold, complex set by Beowulf Boritt spins and spins. So in its very fiber and execution, it's a celebration of the theater itself.

It takes no less than three people to portray Hart — Matthew Schechter as a theater-loving boy, Santino Fontana as the playwright on the verge of fame, and Tony Shalhoub looking back.

Most of the key moments in the book are here: Hart's hardscrabble childhood, his influential theater-loving Aunt Kate, his first job as a messenger boy, his first Broadway flop, becoming an actor and then teaming up with Kaufman. The second act, concentrated on the tortured path of "Once In a Lifetime," goes down better than a slightly sluggish first, which is necessarily weighed down by background.

Fontana and Shalhoub, who eerily begin to resemble each other by the end of the show, have the hardest jobs. Fontana brings his huge charm and energy, his excitement at having a life in the theater infectious. Shalhoub, who plays Hart's stern father and then the oddball Kaufman, doesn't get much chance to rest. Both don't need a gym membership this spring with this much racing around, up and down steps.

Andrea Martin is great as the proud and stubborn Aunt Kate and then plays Kaufman's gracious wife. Chuck Cooper's parts include the frustrated actor Charles Gilpin — though there's no scene in which a drunken Gilpin and Hart play "The Emperor Jones," which in the book was naturally theatrical — and Max Siegel, a general manager.

Lapine manages to keep all these moving pieces going at a healthy clip while also adding what was missing from the book: scenes from Hart's actual plays. In one excellently realized scene, Hart and Kaufman are brainstorming about a moment in "Once In a Lifetime" and the actors in it change their dialogue as the writers edit and rewrite.

Lapine has kept many of the lines that made Hart's book so much fun ("The theater is not so much a profession as a disease" and "A collaboration is like a marriage — nothing anyone tells you about it is of any real use.") He comes close to maudlin when the ghostly Aunt Kate reappears or when Moss' father finally gives him a hug, but pulls back just in time.

But audience-members who haven't read the book may be puzzled by some things: Why is Hart always so hungry while working with Kaufman? Or why Hart feels the need to destroy the room he and his family were renting? And those who have read the book will feel cheated they never got to see the elaborate and hyped set for the nightclub Pigeon's Egg.

Boritt's revolving three-story set spins like a globe that contains apartments, offices, bars and a large theater stage. It has staircases, tenements, grand ballrooms and Broadway marquees. It defies logic. It's like a M.C. Escher painting come to life.

This is ultimately a valentine to the theater and the poor folk who work so hard at it. It's also a celebration of a remarkable man, whose stories sometimes seem too good to be true. And he knows it: "Let's face it," Hart winkingly tells us in Act 1, "life often imitates bad plays." But this is a good play that does his life justice.


New York Daily News: "Act One"

The new Moss Hart bioplay, “Act One,” is affectionate, handsome and overstuffed. Clocking in at close to three hours, this love letter to a homegrown writer and his rags-to-riches rise needs extra postage.

Theaterphiles will recognize the Lincoln Center presentation’s title from its source — Hart’s vivid and tangy backstage autobiography published in 1959 that spawned a movie adaptation four years later.

In his book, Hart, who died at age 57 in 1961, recalled growing up poor in the Bronx, his struggles to make a life in the theater and his career-making collaboration with the wealthy and world-famous George S. Kaufman.

Writer and director James Lapine (“Sunday in the Park With George”) wraps his adaptation up in a big, kinetic production. The set, a two-tiered carousel, spins from uptown hovel to midtown office to tony townhouse and back. Intimacy gets distorted amid all the whirling.

A narrator is a typically creaky device — and this show uses two. A composed and dapper Tony Shalhoub talks to the audience as a middle-aged hotshot Hart, who looks back at his rough road to success. A wide-eyed and nervous Santino Fontana addresses us as the twentysomething Hart, who’s hitting and dodging potholes en route.

The superior first half packs a lot of heart and focuses on a tween-aged Hart (Matthew Schechter) and life in the family’s cramped and crummy apartment. His father (Shalhoub, again) and mother (Mimi Lieber) scraped by and took in boarders to help make ends meet.

Young Moss found joy and escape through his eccentric aunt (Andrea Martin, who also plays an agent and Kaufman’s wife), whose love for theater rubbed off on him. It compelled him toward Shubert Alley, where he ascended from office boy to author. A 19-actor ensemble tackles small roles as neighbors, friends and colleagues.

The play’s long-winded second act sags as it concentrates solely on Hart and Kaufman’s 1930 Tinseltown satire “Once in a Lifetime.” The odd-couple dynamic between the writers is fun, but watching scribes in action isn’t exactly dynamic. As Kaufman in this part of the show, Shalhoub channels his familiar “Monk” tics.

Even though “Act One” could use pruning, there’s something missing: It never reveals what made Hart special. Story structure? Colorful characters? Snappy dialogue? The basic fact should be the starting point, but it’s missing in action here.

New York Daily News

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