Broadway Bound at New Theatre
Broadway Bound is the final play in Neil Simon's quasi-autobiographical trilogy, and continues the story of young Eugene Jerome, an aspiring comedy writer with dreams of a career in radio. Carly spoke with Director Rosane McNamara about working on such a popular production, as well as playwright Neil Simon's contribution to American Theatre.
Neil Simon’s ‘Broadway Bound’ is a much loved and much performed play around the world. How do you think your interpretation may bring something different to the stage in this production? As a director, do you find it challenging or exciting (or both) to take on a known play and put your own stamp on it?
Some plays lend themselves to reinvention but not all. It’s become fashionable for directors to “put their own stamp” on a play and we all do to a certain extent through interpretation, design and direction but the important thing for me is to take the audience on the journey the author intended, not one of my invention. Having said that, we have an exciting set design that plays on the elements of the Brooklyn house and neighbourhood rather than presenting a solid set of rooms.
What was it that drew you to this particular play?
I’ve always loved Neil Simon’s plays both for their humanity and their humour – what a night in the theatre they provide. In fact, the first play I was in at acting school was Plaza Suite. It was directed by Arthur Sherman, a man who was born and bred in Brooklyn, and he showed us how to play this type of humour. Directing Simon myself and passing on his legacy to younger actors is a joy.
What message do you hope audiences take away from this play? What can they expect from this production?
That we’re all in this together and we go through similar experiences in life. Relationships aren’t easy. You have to work at them with compassion, compromise and understanding – and a sense of humour really helps.
Audiences can expect a lot of laughs and a lot of heart. Broadway Bound is semi-autobiographical so they will gain an insight into the family in which Simon himself grew up and why his plays came to have such a delicate counterpoint of pain and humour.
Do you have a favourite moment in the production? Something that you can’t wait to see take the stage? And further to that, do you anticipate that any of these characters will stay with you beyond the run of the play? And if so, why?
The beginning of Act 2 when the family gathers around the radio (it’s the year 1949) to listen to ‘The Chubby Waters Show’ is hilarious. I’m looking forward to seeing that in front of an audience.
Each production is a unique journey for director and cast as they bring the characters off the page and flesh them out on the stage so they all stay with me after a production. Having said that, I think you’ll love ‘Mrs Pitkin’ one of the characters in the radio play – she’s Brooklyn through and through.
Why is this play so important for 2018 audiences to see? What can they expect?
Sadly, Neil Simon passed away in August so it is wonderful to have an opportunity to celebrate his important contribution to the American theatre. Compared to drama, comedy is woefully underrated by commentators and award-givers although, in my opinion, it is harder to write and harder to play.
Audiences can expect to see a play by a master craftsman who recognises the healing value of humour even in the darkest situations.
Favourite production you have ever seen?
The first time I ever saw Man of La Mancha (the original Sydney production - a very long time ago) it just blew me away.
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
I’d love to explore the Northwest Passage and the Canadian wilderness.
Dream show to direct?
I’ve always wanted to direct The Royal Hunt of the Sun.
Plays or musicals?
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
Ballroom dancing. I did it for many years and have just choreographed the scene in Broadway Bound in which Eugene and Kate dance the foxtrot.
What’s next for you after this show?
A couple of possibilities for directing next year but nothing firmed up yet. In the meantime, I’ll be travelling to New York to catch up with some Broadway shows and to visit my friends - in Brooklyn, of course!
Broadway Bound opens December 13, 2018. You can get your tickets at https://newtheatre.org.au/broadway-bound/
Rosane McNamara, Director