Q&A with Todd Haimes: HARVEY
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by Roundabout Theatre Company
Q&A with Todd Haimes: Harvey
Except for a brief revival in 1970, Harvey has not been seen on Broadway in generations. What about this show makes it a great choice for our subscribers?
I've always loved Harvey, but people tend to be more familiar with the movie than with the play. Obviously, the movie is a classic, and I'm as big of a fan of those Jimmy Stewart and Josephine Hull performances as anyone. But the play stands on its own incredibly well, and most people have no idea that Mary Chase won the Pulitzer Prize for writing it, which was no small thing for a woman in 1944. The original production ran for years, and I think because it was such a hit both on stage and screen, people have been wary of taking on that big legacy with a new production. But it seems to me that this is the right moment to bring Harvey back. The play has a lot to say about imagination, faith, and the value of being able to step back from the chaos of life and not take things too seriously for a minute. In our overly plugged-in time, I think it's a message we need to hear, and one that this play gets across in a simple, charming, and funny way.
Would you describe how this production and cast came together at Studio 54?
Scott Ellis and I have been talking about Harvey for quite some time, knowing that the biggest challenge in mounting this play is in finding the right actor to step into the awfully big shoes of Jimmy Stewart. In Jim Parsons, I really think we've found the perfect Elwood P. Dowd for today. He has such charm and sweetness in him, and I know that Jim has always loved this piece, for good reason. I think he has exactly the right spirit to make you believe in that six-foot rabbit all over again. And Jessica Hecht is someone who has long been a favorite at this theater. When we did a reading of the play, she and Jim made perfect comic foils, and I can't wait for our audience to see their hilarious dynamic on stage. I'm also very grateful that Don Gregory, who holds the rights to Harvey, agreed to allow us to proceed with this production featuring this excellent cast.
Our Associate Artistic Director Scott Ellis' most recent Roundabout production was directing 2009's The Understudy. How did you determine that this is the right project for Scott to return to Roundabout's stage?
Scott Ellis is one of the most versatile directors out there, and I'm proud that he calls Roundabout his artistic home. Throughout our long collaboration, Scott has done everything from musicals like She Loves Me and 1776 to the ensemble dramas Twelve Angry Men and Streamers, and of course comedies like The Understudy. Honestly, I feel confident putting almost any production in Scott's hands if I know he has a passion for it, and he definitely has a passion for bringing Harvey to the stage. We've been talking about this play for quite a while, and to finally have it coming together is just the magic of timing. As Roundabout's associate artistic director, he continues to work behind the scenes at Roundabout even though he hasn't directed since 2009, and it's always good to have him back with a new production on one of our stages.
When you announced Don't Dress for Dinner for Spring 2012, you addressed the dark nature of some of the plays in Roundabout's season thus far. Don't Dress for Dinner is a classic farce, and Harvey is a comedy as well. Would you explain how you balance a season of programming?
I am very aware that the first half of our season has had a dramatic focus, and I'm grateful to have the kind of audience willing to travel to the depths with us. But I can certainly appreciate the need for laughter and escape, especially in times of turmoil when the news of the day is anything but amusing. It seems to me that Harvey is exactly the right tonic for our audiences to take a break with and enjoy. It will be fantastic to have two comedies of two very different styles and periods on our Broadway stages this spring. I think this will make for a perfect change of pace.