Sunday, January 10, 2010

Saying goodbye to The 39 Steps

I can't believe it's time to say goodbye to The 39 Steps on Broadway.

This plucky little British comedy had a great two-year run, far longer than anyone would have predicted when it began previews on Jan. 4, 2008.

And it's a play that will always occupy a special place in my theatergoing experience because it was the show that launched my blog.

The first Gratuitous Violins post was a review of The 39 Steps at Boston's Huntington Theatre Company, where it had a pre-New York engagement.

After Boston, The 39 Steps came to Broadway's American Airlines Theatre under the auspices of the nonprofit Roundabout Theatre Company. The play transferred to the Cort and later the Helen Hayes, its final home, for an open-ended commercial run.

Well, that run ends today after 771 performances, making it the longest-running play on Broadway in seven years.

I had a chance to see The 39 Steps on Broadway last summer, my first time taking it in since Boston. Arnie Burton, one of two actors who plays multiple roles, was still in the cast.

And it was still immensely entertaining - a witty and inventive retelling of Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 movie about a man caught up in an international spy ring. It's hard to believe you could do so much with four actors, a few props and lots of imagination.

There's been talk of moving the show off-Broadway, like the producers of Avenue Q did after the musical closed at the Golden Theatre. But there's no official word yet. Still, The 39 Steps will live on somewhere - if not in New York than on tour and in regional productions.

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