Original FANTASTICKS Star Rita Gardner Joins Cast of Tim Realbuto's LOST IN YONKERS Revival
Rita Gardner, the legendary New York actress who originated the role of Louisa in 1960 opposite Jerry Orbach in Off-Broadway's THE FANTASTICKS (the world's longest running musical) has joined the cast of the December 9th benefit performance of Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize winning play LOST IN YONKERS.
Ms. Gardner, who made a career out of playing ingenue roles on Broadway for decades, has been cast as Grandma, the stern matriarch of the Kurnitz family who rules her household with an iron fist.
Tim Realbuto, who co-directs and conceived the event said in a statement: "I honestly can't believe that I'm working with such an icon! She’s theatre royalty! I've been a fan of hers for my entire life. I wore out my 'Fantasticks' CD listening to her beautiful soprano and I even saw her in concert several years ago on my birthday (and I even had an autographed picture of her on my wall all throughout high school!). She is one of the kindest women you'll ever meet playing one of the coldest characters ever written. She's a true genius on stage, so I can't wait to see her tackle this iconic Tony Award winning role!”
Aside from THE FASTASTICKS, Ms. Gardner is known for her starring roles in Broadway productions of 1776; LAST OF THE RED HOT LOVERS (also written by Mr. Simon); PAL JOEY; ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER; A FAMILY AFFAIR; Ben Franklin IN PARIS; ARI; MORNING'S AT SEVEN; and most recently THE WEDDING SINGER (in which she originated the role of Rosie, the rapping Granny).
She has been seen in countless Off-Broadway productions including JAQUES BREL...; STEEL MAGNOLIAS; WINGS; I REMEMBER MAMA; THE CRADLE WILL ROCK; THE SNOWBALL; THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE; THE GINGERBREAD LADY; and SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM. She also starred in the National Tour of KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN.
Ms. Gardner tours her one woman show around the country, has released countless albums, and has appeared on television in "GUIDING LIGHT"; "LAW AND ORDER"; "THE DOCTORS"; "ODD MOM OUT"; "AT HOME WITH Amy Sedaris"; "DORA THE EXPLORER"; and "30 ROCK." Ms. Gardner has also appeared in the major motion pictures P.S. I LOVE YOU; MARCI X; SUPER HEROES; CHASING TASTE; TIGER LILY ROAD; and many others. She also appeared as herself in the documentary TRY TO REMEMBER: THE FANTASTICKS.
Ms. Gardner is joined by the previously announced Tim Realbuto (YES) as Louie Kurnitz, Aidan Gemme (FINDING NEVERLAND) as Jay Kurnitz, DREW LOGAN POWELL (Amazon's "THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS") as Arty Kurnitz, Liz McCartney (TABOO) as Gert Kurnitz, and Graham Alexander Sack (original Arty in LOST IN YONKERS on Broadway) as Eddie Kurnitz. The casting of the pivotal role of Bella will be announced in the coming days.
LOST IN YONKERS tells the story of Jay (Gemme) and Arty (Powell), who find their lives turned upside down when their father Eddie (Sack) moves south for work, leaving them with their no-nonsense Grandmother (Gardner) and their loving but absent-minded spinster Aunt Bella. Along the way, they're also introduced to their Uncle Louie (Realbuto), a small-time crook and their kind Aunt Gert (McCartney), who has developed a serious (but hilarious) breathing problem due to the fear she has for her own mother.
The December production will be presented as a semi-staged reading with proceeds from ticket sales going to The National Alzheimer's Association, in honor of the late Neil Simon who recently passed away from the disease.
The other half of the proceeds will go to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, in honor of Broadway star Marin Mazzie.
The one night only event will take place at The Engleman Concert Hall, 55 Lexington Avenue, in NYC on Sunday, December 9th at 7:30 PM. Tickets, priced from $25-$100, will go on sale on Wednesday, November 28th.
Realbuto will co-direct the evening with Paul Mitchell Wilder. Mr. Wilder directed the premiere of MANAHATTA, which later workshopped at The Public Theatre In NYC. Ryan A. Ross (DESPERATE MEASURES) will serve as the Production Stage Manager.