Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones headline 'The Best Man' revival
UPI News Service, 04/05/2012
Angela Lansbury says an election year like this one is the perfect time to have revived Gore Vidal's political play "The Best Man" on Broadway.
The comedy follows two fictional candidates -- played by John Larroquette and Eric McCormack -- as they campaign for their party's nomination during the 1960 presidential convention in Philadelphia.
James Earl Jones portrays the beloved ex-president whose endorsement both candidates seek, while Lansbury plays the influential head of a women voters group and Candice Bergen plays the loyal wife of Larroquette's character.
"The relevance is quite obvious; everything that we are doing and saying on stage is pertinent to what is happening in all of the cities across America. This process of setting up the election," Lansbury, whose film credits include "The Manchurian Candidate," told United Press International during a recent news conference in Manhattan.
"I think most of us realize we are involved in history even as we get out there and play and do this wonderful piece of stagecraft because, as I said, it is so pertinent to what we're reading, hearing, watching on television and some of it is hilariously funny -- as it is when we watch it on television," Lansbury explained. "On top of that, you have this dichotomy. It's rather exciting and thrilling to think of getting out there and doing this and being on stage and knowing damn well the audience have just left their television sets at home and they've probably seen the same scene actually taking place in South Carolina or California. We're very much on the nose."
Donna Hanover, a journalist and former first lady of New York City -- she was married to Rudy Giuliani -- plays an intrepid UPI reporter in "The Best Man." She also was on-hand as moderator of the press conference and asked each of her co-stars to talk about what lured them to the project.
"For me, my manager started listing off the people in the cast and I said: 'Stop! You had me at Earl,'" McCormack joked. "After I heard the cast list, I said: 'I'm in. And what's the play?' But then to hear the play was by Gore Vidal and was this fantastic political epic that was hilarious, as well, was amazing. As I was reading it, I had Candice's voice in my head and James' voice ... I think this was beautifully cast."
"For once, I wanted not to be the deepest voice on the stage," Larroquette chimed in. "It really is something. Mr. Jones' voice is internationally, universally the best in the world. ... But, as Eric said, how can you pass up the opportunity to be on a stage with these people? No matter what the play is. It's very exciting. As some of you know, I have been in New York for a while now working [in 'How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,'] and the idea of coming back to do something like this was just impossible to pass up."
"I like being the elder of a company," Jones, 81, confessed.
"You're not the elder," laughed Lansbury, 86.
"Every chance I get to work with some young kids, I sign on," Jones chuckled.
"Don't look at me when you say that," Larroquette, 64, deadpanned.
"The nice thing about this group is I'm pushing 50 and I'm the ingenue," said McCormack.
"Watch it," Lansbury warned.
"The Best Man" opened this week at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.
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