Dennehy – probably most familiar to British audiences for his film appearances in the likes of Romeo + Juliet, Presumed Innocent, F/X, Legal Eagles, Cocoon, Gorky Park and First Blood - won the 1999 Best Actor Tony Award for his performance as Willy Loman, the salesman of the title. While he will still head the production in London, other key roles have been largely recast with British talent.
According to Variety, Clare Higgins - who won a hat trick of Best Actress prizes, including the Olivier, for Vincent in Brixton and most recently took the title role in Hecuba at the Donmar Warehouse - will take over from Tony Award winner Elizabeth Franz, seen last year on these shores in Buried Child, as wife Linda. (Coincidentally, both Higgins and Franz have been nominated for Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards this year - click here to vote now). Douglas Henshall (Darwin in Malibu, The Coast of Utopia, The Crucible) and Mark Bazeley (Suddenly Last Summer, Macbeth, Homebody/Kabul, The Real Thing) will play Loman’s sons Biff and Happy.
Death of a Salesman, now considered a seminal work of American theatre, tells the story of Loman, the small time travelling salesman who harbours a blind belief in the American Dream and tries to graft his failed ambitions and values onto his unwilling sons. Premiered in 1949, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Lee J Cobb, the drama went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. Previous Broadway revivals of Death of a Salesman starred George C Scott and Dustin Hoffman as Loman.
The Dennehy-led production was first staged at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in 1998 before transferring in January 1999 to Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theatre. In addition to Best Actor and Best Actress for Dennehy and Franz, the production won Tony Awards for Best Revival and Best Direction. Robert Falls remains as director for the UK transfer, which was originally scheduled for five years ago (See News, 7 Sep 1999).
Currently at the Lyric Theatre is a production due to head in the other direction across the Atlantic. The Almeida’s multi award-winning stage adaptation of Festen has extended its run up to 9 April 2005 ahead of a planned Broadway transfer. The company currently features Paul Nicholls and William Beck as brothers Christian and Michael at a fraught family reunion. Festen has been nominated for several Whatsonstage.com Awards, including Best New Play and Best Ensemble Performance (click here to vote now).
- by Terri Paddock