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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

‘The Royal Family’ to open Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s 53rd Season

01. Royal Family

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s 53rd Season opens with The Royal Family, the Tony Award-winning American classic by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber. Performances begin Wednesday, May 27th and continue through Sunday, June 21st at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Avenue (at Lancaster Road) in Madison. Individual tickets and subscriptions can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or by visiting ShakespeareNJ.org.

Inspired by the Barrymore theatrical dynasty, three generations take center stage in this lavish, outrageously funny, and touching portrayal of the Cavendish family as they struggle to balance the demands of family life with the bonds of their artistic calling. Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte– celebrating her 25th Season at the Theatre– will direct the season opener. “All of our selections this season present extraordinary tales of kith and kin,” said Monte. “This Theatre is home to a diverse, lively family of artists and audience members, who make working at the Theatre feel like a family adventure.”

First performed in 1927, this Kaufman-Ferber comedy ran for 343 performances at the Selwyn Theatre in New York City. Before its West End debut, the play’s title was changed to “Theatre Royal,” to avoid any confusion with the actual royal family. The Royal Family was Kaufman and Ferber’s second collaboration, and they became obsessed with the idea of a household of eccentrics.  They settled on portraying a dynasty of acting giants, featuring the family matriarch, the reigning Broadway star, the swashbuckling son, and the young ingénue. The 1975 revival of The Royal Family, which ran at the Helen Hayes Theatre for 233 performances, was the first winner of the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival of a Play. The 2009 Manhattan Theatre Club revival– touted as “a splendid spread of old-fashioned Broadway pleasures” by the editors of Time Out New York and lauded by Ben Brantley of The New York Times for its “radiance of the pure, inexhaustible love of an ancient craft”– was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

The Cast:

In her sixth season with the Theatre, Elizabeth Shepherd returns to portray Fanny Cavendish, Grand Dame of the Cavendish clan. Previous company credits include Trelawney of the Wells, Pygmalion, Les Liasons Dangereuses, Pride and Prejudice, and Measure for Measure. Shepherd’s distinguished theatre career has also taken her from London’s West End to Broadway, as well as to regional theatres throughout North America including Arena Stage, The Old Globe, and The Stratford Festival.

Roxanna Hope plays reigning Broadway star Julie Cavendish in her fourth season with the Theatre. Company credits include Pericles, Richard III, Julius Caesar, and Les Liasions Dangereuses. Hope has appeared in several Broadway shows, including Frost/Nixon, Boeing Boeing, After the Fall, and The Women, as well as on stage at regional theatres from Hartford Stage to the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Select television credits include appearances on Elementary, The Good Wife, Blue Bloods, and Law and Order: SVU.

Benjamin Sterling returns to the Theatre for his fifth season, taking on the role of the dashing Tony Cavendish. Previous company credits include As You Like It, Measure for Measure and To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as two tours with the Theatre’s educational touring company Shakespeare LIVE

In her Shakespeare Theatre debut, Samantha Bruce joins the cast to play Gwen Cavendish. Most recently, Bruce appeared as Luisa in The Fantasticks Off-Broadway. Favorite regional credits include Joan Fletcher in Strike Up the Band, Gretchen in Boeing-Boeing, Julie in Carousel, and Louise in Gypsy.

Last seen at the Theatre in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, Matt Sullivan plays Herbert Dean, Fanny’s decidedly less talented brother. In his eighth season with the Theatre, Sullivan’s previous company credits include The Devil’s Disciple, Tovarich, The Playboy of the Western World, The Comedy of Errors, Othello, Twelfth Night, and King Lear. Recently, he appeared Off-Broadway in a production of Standing On Ceremony at The Minetta Lane and Hay Fever at the Guthrie Theatre.

As Herbert’s wife Kittie Dean, Allison Mackie returns for her third season at the Theatre. Previous company credits include Fallen Angels and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Broadway credits include Cyrano De Bergerac at Roundabout and Candida at Circle in the Square. Currently, Ms. Mackie can be seen on screen in Those People, screening at a number of locations this summer, including the Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, and Provincetown festivals. Other film credits include Almost Perfect, Our Very Own with Allison Janney, Pretty Ugly People, and The Gymnast, as well as Original Sin and Gia, both with Angelina Jolie.

Company veteran Edmond Genest returns to the Theatre for his twentieth season to play Oscar Wolfe, longtime agent of the Cavendish Family. Shakespeare Theatre credits include The Devil’s Disciple, The Playboy of the Western World, Trelawney of the Wells, and Accidental Death of an Anarchist among many others. Genest has appeared in a number of Broadway productions, including The Elephant Man, A Few Good Men, The Real Thing, and Whose Life Is It Anyway?. Off-Broadway, Genest has taken to the stage at Playwrights Horizon, Naked Angels, Hudson Guild, and Roundabout Theatre Company.

Patrick Boll returns to the Theatre in his third season playing Gil Marshall, a successful international businessman and eventual paramour of Julie Cavendish. Boll’s previous company credits include Man of La Mancha and Richard II. Broadway credits include Mamma Mia, Faith Healer, Twentieth Century, Hedda Gabler, Death of a Salesman, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Off-Broadway credits include Bill W. and Dr. Bob, All the Way Home, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, The Underpants, Two Rooms, and Henry and Mudge.

Emma O’Donnell returns for her second season with the Theatre as Della. O’Donnell’s company credit includes The Playboy of the Western World. Regionally, she has appeared at The Guthrie, Children’s Theatre Co., Walnut Street Theater, Act II Playhouse, Mountain Playhouse, and the Florida Studio Theatre, as well as Theater Works USA’s first national tour of Ramona Quimby.

In his ninth season with the Theatre, Patrick Toon returns to play Jo. Company credits include The Tempest, The Playboy of the Western World, Henry IV, Part One, Othello, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Galileo, Julius Caesar, Cymbeline, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Amadeus.

Jordan Buhat, Louise Heller, Ryan McCarthy, and Tug Rice round out the cast.

The Director:

2015 marks director Bonnie J. Monte’s landmark 25th season as Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Since 1990, Monte has directed more than 50 productions for the company, including last season’s critically acclaimed productions of The Alchemist and The Tempest, as well as Tovarich, As You Like It on the Outdoor Stage, Trelawny of the Wells, Man of La Mancha, Measure for Measure, A Christmas Carol, The Misanthrope and Othello, No Man’s Land, The Taming of the Shrew, and Hamlet. Her many adaptations of classic works, including Enrico IV, The Cherry Orchard and Pride and Prejudice have earned her critical acclaim.  Her adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters is published by Playscripts, Inc.

The Artistic Staff:

The world of the Cavendish family comes to life with the help of scenic designer Charles Murdock Lucas, costume designer Maggie Dick, lighting designer Anthony Galaska, sound designer Karin Graybash, and fight director Rick Sordelet. Denise Cardarelli serves as production stage manager.

Tickets:

Single tickets for The Royal Family start at $25 for preview performances and $32 for regular performances. Student Rush tickets are available a half-hour before curtain for $15 with a valid Student ID. For tickets, call the Box Office at 973-408-5600, visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org, or email BoxOffice@ShakespeareNJ.org.

Special Performances:

Discount preview performances for The Royal Family take place on Wednesday, May 27th at 7:30 PM, Thursday, May 28th and Friday May 29th at 8:00 PM, and Saturday, May 30th at 2:00 PM. Preview performances offer opportunities for reduced-priced tickets while enjoying the excitement of the very first performances in front of an audience. As always, the first Preview performance is Pay What You Can Night. Visit The Shakespeare Theatre Box Office between Noon and curtain on Wednesday, May 27th to purchase a ticket for that evening’s 7:30 PM performance, for what you are able to pay. Offer subject to availability.

For no more than the cost of a regular ticket, three Symposium Series performances are offered for each show, and include a post-play discussion with the cast and artistic staff. Symposium performances for The Royal Family will be Tuesday, June 2nd at 7:30 PM and Saturday, June 6th and Saturday, June 13th at 2:00 PM.

For each production, The Shakespeare Theatre presents the popular education program Know the Show. From 7:00 to 7:30 PM, an artist from The Shakespeare Theatre will present a pre-performance talk that provides background information and an insider’s perspective on the production. The Know the Show performance will be held on Thursday, June 4th at 7:00 PM, and is free of charge.

One of the leading Shakespeare theatres in the nation, serving 100,000 adults and children annually, The Shakespeare Theatre is New Jersey’s largest professional theatre company dedicated solely to Shakespeare’s canon and other world classics. Through its distinguished productions and education programs, the company strives to illuminate the universal and lasting relevance of the classics for contemporary audiences.

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