Philadelphia Stars Fill The Walnut Stage For Gore Vidal's THE BEST MAN
Walnut Street Theatre (WST) continues its 211th season with Gore Vidal's thrilling political drama, THE BEST MAN. Directed by Broadway veteran Michael Wilson, the production begins previews on March 10, opens March 18, and continues through April 26 on the Walnut's Mainstage.
Power, ambition, and secrecy are in the air-it must be election season. Set at the national convention in Philadelphia, Gore Vidal's The Best Man takes you into the back rooms and hotel suites where two candidates are vying for their party's nomination. It's your inside look at the dirt-digging, double-dealing, triple-crossing deception of presidential electioneering...and what could be more fun during a Presidential campaign season! However, leave your party affiliation at the door; The Best Man plays no favorites as theatrical fireworks are lobbed from both sides.
Gore Vidal was an American writer, political commentator, and intellectual whose large body of work is known for its wit and polish. His political and cultural essays were featured in a multitude of publications including The Nation, New York Review, and Esquire, often tackling subjects like sex, religion, and politics. Vidal was so vastly engrossed in politics that he sought office twice as a Democratic Party candidate.
The Best Man premiered in 1960 on Broadway at the Morosco Theatre and was met with commercial and critical acclaim, including six Tony Award nominations. Since its Broadway debut, the play was adapted into a film and has been revived on multiple occasions. The 2012 revival featured James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, John Larroquette, and Eric McCormack, and was directed by Michael Wilson.
Award-winning director Michael Wilson makes his Walnut debut as he reprises his role as director for The Best Man. Wilson has directed several Broadway productions, including Horton Foote's The Trip to Bountiful (Tony Award Best Actress, Cicely Tyson) as well as Enchanted April and Dividing the Estate. He served as Artistic Director of Hartford Stage from 1998 to 2011 and directed the currently touring North American premiere of David Seidler's The King's Speech.
Some of Philadelphia's favorites will grace the Walnut stage for this timely take on electioneering. Playing the two politicians going head-to-head are Greg Wood as Secretary William Russell and Scott Greer as Senator Joseph Cantwell. Wood has appeared in many WST productions, including The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Noises Off, The Humans, Private Lives, Other Desert Cities, and most recently, Meteor Shower. He has been a staple of Philadelphia's acting community for many years and can even be seen in hometown hero M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense, Signs, and The Happening, among other films. Six-time Barrymore Award-winning actor Scott Greer is a Walnut favorite who has appeared in many WST shows including Ken Ludwig's A Comedy of Tenors, A Funny Thing...Forum, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Les Misérables, Of Mice and Men and Oliver!. Four-time Barrymore Award nominee Johnnie Hobbs Jr. will transition from his role as Supreme Court Justice in Thurgood to Former President of the United States Arthur Hockstader in The Best Man. In addition to this season's Thurgood, Hobbs has been seen in the Walnut's Independence Studio on 3 in Oleanna, The Other Place, and Driving Miss Daisy. He is currently an Emeritus Associate Professor at the Ira Brind School of Theatre Arts at the University of the Arts.
After starring in this season's Young Frankenstein and Shrek The Musical, Walnut favorite Fran Prisco is back to assume the role of Sheldon Marcus. Prisco has appeared on the Walnut stage over 30 times with credits including Holiday Inn, Annie, A Funny Thing...Forum, Saturday Night Fever, The Wizard of Oz, and South Pacific. Walnut actress and director Jennie Eisenhower plays Mabel Cantwell. Eisenhower has performed in multiple WST productions including The Humans, A Funny Thing...Forum, and Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits, for which she won a Barrymore Award for Best Actress. As a director, her work includes At Wit's End (Bristol Riverside Theatre), Parade (Arden Theatre Company), and A Christmas Carol at the Walnut. Walnut veteran and Philadelphia favorite Leonard C. Haas returns to the Walnut as Russell's seasoned campaign manager Dick Jensen. Haas was last seen at the Walnut in Noises Off and has been performing in Philadelphia theatre for over 30 years.
South Philly's own John P. Connolly, another Philadelphia acting veteran, joins the cast as Senator Clyde Carlin. Connolly has appeared in over 300 plays, movies, and TV shows that span Broadway (Big River) to California (The West Wing) and everywhere in-between. Joilet F. Harris returns to the Walnut to play Mrs. Sue-Ellen Gamadge. She was last seen on the WST stage in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in addition to her appearances in Hairspray, Damn Yankees, The Buddy Holly Story, and A Streetcar Named Desire. Starring in his ninth Walnut production is Damon Bonetti who will be taking on the role of Don Blades. Bonetti is a Philly born actor, director, and teacher who co-founded the Philadelphia artists Collective. His Walnut credits include Arsenic and Old Lace, The Glass Menagerie, and more recently, Civil War Voices.
Barrymore Award-winning actress Jessica M. Johnson makes her Mainstage debut as Catherine. Audiences may recognize Johnson from her starring roles in the Independence on 3 productions of Civil War Voices and Oleanna. Paul L. Nolan will be taking on the dual roles of News Commentator and Dr. Artinian. Nolan has performed in a number of WST productions since 2006 including Elf, Of Mice and Men, White Christmas, and The Mousetrap, or more recently, as Mr. Kelvil from A Woman of No Importance. He has also been seen in TV and film, including roles in The Wire, Ocean's 11, and All Square. Karen Peakes, who also recently starred in A Woman of No Importance, will play Alice Russell. Peakes has been seen on the WST Mainstage in The Curious Incident...Night-Time, Comedy of Tenors, Of Mice and Men, Fallen Angels, and Born Yesterday; and in the Independence Studio on 3 in Speaking in Tongues, Doubt, and Last of the Red Hot Lovers.
Forming an ensemble of reporters and delegates will be Jered McLenigan (Peter and the Starcatcher), as well as Sean Close, Travoye Joyner, Chris Morriss, and T.J. Wagner who will be making their WST Mainstage debuts.
Scenic Designer Roman Tatarowicz (A Woman of No Importance, Meteor Shower, Young Frankenstein, Forum) returns to the Walnut to bring this intense political battle to life. Kayla Speedy will bring the style of the 60s to the Walnut as she makes her Mainstage debut as Costume Designer. Speedy previously designed costumes for the Independence Studio on 3's production of The Hound of the Baskervilles. They will be joined by Lighting Designer Jimmy Lawlor (Meteor Shower, Oleanna) and award-winning Sound Designer John Gromoda, who has composed and/or designed sound for 40 Broadway productions including All My Sons, Trip to Bountiful (Tony nomination), and The Best Man (Drama Desk Award).
THE BEST MAN runs at the Walnut March 10 - April 26, 2020. There will be a free pre-show discussion before the 8:00 p.m. performance on March 11. There will be a free post-performance discussion after the 2:00 p.m. performance on March 22. There will be an open captioned performance on April 5 during the 7 p.m. show. This production is sponsored by Louis & Bessie Stein Foundation Fund #2. Media Partners are 6abc, Metro, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.