It's hard to believe that Canadian stage actor Stephen Ouimette - one of our absolute best - only made his Broadway debut last fall, at age 56.
It looks as if the Stratford Shakespeare Festival star won't have to wait as long to make his second appearance on the Great White Way, however.
From Stratford, Ouimette sends word that he has landed the role of saloon and hotel proprietor Harry Hope in a very hotly anticipated production of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh set to play at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.
The chief reason that spring 2012 show is already getting press is that Nathan Lane, Tony-winning star of The Producers and The Addams Family and one of Broadway's most bankable names, will be playing the stand-out role of sodden salesman Theodore (Hickey) Hickman in the production directed by Robert Falls.
Two-time Tony winner Brian Dennehy, who was Hickey in a 1990 production at the Goodman, will also be in the cast, this time playing the anarchist Larry Slade.
Ouimette got good practice playing alongside Broadway royalty when he supported Mark Rylance and David Hyde Pierce in La Bête in New York last fall (and also last summer in the West End).
And the St Thomas, Ontario-born actor, known to many theatre nerds in the USA through his role as Oliver Welles in the cult Stratford-spoofing TV series Slings and Arrows, has developed a strong on-stage rapport with Dennehy. The two have been a bit of a double act at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival this season, playing Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night and brothers Max and Sam in The Homecoming.
Earlier this week, Dennehy suggested to the New York Post that the Chicago run of Iceman Cometh was going to be a “tryout” for a run in New York. That wouldn't be a surprise given the number of times projects with Dennehy and Falls have headed from Chicago to Broadway.
But, of course, a Broadway transfer is never a certainty, as we learned when the opening of Canadian director Jennifer Tarver's production of Krapp's Last Tape starring Dennehy never ended up materializing. The Iceman Cometh last played in New York’s famed theatre district in 1999 - with Kevin Spacey as Hickey - but as Dennehy told the Post, "It’s tricky. Who knows if audiences will sit through drama that’s nearly five hours long?” Best to catch this one in Windy City to be sure - I know I'm looking at flights...
On the subject of Brian Dennehy and his fondness of Canadians: The Iceman Cometh means that we won't see him (or Ouimette) in Stratford's 60th anniversary season, but the American actor hopefully will make a stage appearance in Toronto later on in the 2012-2013 season.
Local company DVxT, run by Dora-winning director-designer Vikki Anderson, has commissioned playwright John Murrell (of Waiting for the Parade fame) to write a play for Brian Dennehy and Canadian actors Daniela Vlaskalic and Bruce Godfree. (Vlaskalic played Helena to Dennehy’s King of France in Marti Maraden’s 2008 production of All’s Well That Ends Well at Stratford.)
Under the Influence (working title) - in which Dennehy will play an "obstreperous Irish-American novelist in his seventies" according to Murrell's précis - was workshopped in Stratford last week and all went very well. The next step: The Canadians will join Dennehy in Chicago in the spring for a reading of the final draft and then, with any luck, it will make it to a stage in Toronto (or Chicago or both) in the 2012-2013 season.
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