Neil Simon Festival ready to go ‘Broadway Bound’
Play opens Aug. 16 at the Egyptian Theatre
Neil Simon Festival Executive Director Richard Bugg believes that Simon’s 1986 Tony Award-nominated play “Broadway Bound” is one of the playwright’s masterpieces.
“It’s a very moving and poignant play as well as a comedy,” Bugg said during a phone call from his office in Cedar City. “It deals with a young man leaving home and heading out with his brother to a career, as well as dealing with all of the problems in the family that they leave behind.”
The Neil Simon Festival will bring “Broadway Bound” to Park City for a run from Wednesday Aug. 16, to Sunday, Aug. 20.
Bugg said this play, as with other Simon works, are popular because they carry universal themes of family, hardships and comedy.
“Simon writes from a New York Jewish culture perspective, but these are experiences that every culture has, so we can all relate to them,” Bugg said. “I think people relate to ‘Broadway Bound’ because we all have imperfect families. And we all have struggled with issues that these characters deal with. I think the audience will laugh and cry and have a
“Broadway Bound” is the last chapter in Simon’s so-called “Eugene Trilogy,” which includes “Brighton Beach Memoires” and “Biloxi Blues.”
Like the other two, “Broadway Bound,” which was a finalist for the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, is semi-autobiographical.
The main characters — Eugene and Stanley — are based on Simon and his older brother Danny.
“Eugene is portrayed by Trevor Messenger, and Stanley is portrayed by Christopher Whiteside,” Bugg said. “Trevor actually portrayed Stanley last year in our production of ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs.’
“The reason we made the choice this year to have him play Eugene in ‘Broadway Bound’ is because Eugene is quite a bit older than he was in ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs.’ And the young man who played Eugene last year still looks like a teenager.”
Messenger and Whiteside are Bugg’s former acting students.
“The thing is they’ve learned their craft very well, but they haven’t done a lot of Neil Simon works,” Bugg said. “Simon has his own rhythm, and it was a challenge for them to figure it out.”
“Broadway Bound” director Clarence Gilyard worked long hours with the actors and helped them master their roles.
“The actors sell you on the idea that they are brothers who fight a lot, but who also love each other,” Bugg said with a laugh. “They’ve captured that timing, that pace that Simon gives us that will make us laugh during the most intense moments.”
The fighting means a little more with this play than Simon’s other works, Bugg said.
“In real life, Neil and Danny had a falling out for a few years, and it was mostly over the fact that Neil had written ‘The Odd Couple,’ which was Danny’s idea,” Bugg said. “Although Danny told Neil to go with it, Danny felt like the play should be partly his.”
Eventually Neil gave Danny a percentage of the play, but they had had a falling out that wasn’t mended until a few years before Danny’s death in 2005.
“When Neil wrote ‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ and ‘Broadway Bound,’ he wrote the character of Stanley with love, and I think that touched Danny, and so they mended the fence,” Bugg said. “This play is very much about them.”
It’s that type of connection Simon inserts in his plays that drew Bugg to the playwright.
“I had always enjoyed his plays, and while I was reading one some 18 years ago, I glanced at the list of all the ones he wrote,” Bugg said. “It was a long list, and that got me to start to thinking about the impact he has had on our culture.
“Neil Simon is one of those gentlemen who, in the middle part of the century, defined and taught us our national sense of humor,” Bugg said. “He became known as ‘Doc’ as a young man, because people would come in and have him fix scripts when working in radio and television.
While studying Simon’s plays and career, Bugg noticed a shift in perspective.
“He started writing more personal plays in his later works,” he said. “He would add his experiences and his hard-earned wisdom to these plays.
“He’s the most popular playwright in American history, and I thought that some of these plays would be in danger of sinking into oblivion when he dies. That was one of the driving factors for me to make the choice to start the festival.”
Neil Simon Festival will present “Broadway Bound” at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16, through Saturday, Aug. 18, and at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Tickets for Wednesday and Thursday range from $25 to $25. Friday, Saturday and Sunday tickets are $19 to $29. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
Summit County gardeners can purchase local-climate friendly plants and seeds to grow this season