Wednesday night at the Helen Hayes Theater, Sir Elton John and David Furnish's production, "Next Fall," debuted for a preview audience of family and friends. After the show — described as a "beautiful and funny portrait of modern romance...bursting with political relevance and emotional truth" — the crowd headed to the Royalton Hotel to celebrate the show's debut.
Sir Elton told Cindy Adams that David, his partner, saw the play first and thought it was spectacular.
"David originally saw it and told me, 'I've just seen a spectacular piece of work. It's wonderful,'' he said. "Our 'Billy Elliot' director also loved it. And a friend with whom I'm involved in another project wrote it. So they asked us to get involved."
On hand at the Royalton to help celebrate the production was a mix of guests including designers Donna Karan and Helmut Lang, "Rachel Maddow Show" regular Lt. Dan Choi, literary agent David Kuhn, Vogue and former Interview editing duo Ingrid Sischy and Sandra Brant, and superstar Corcoran realtor Robby Browne.
PHOTOS (from Patrick McMullan):
Michael Kuchwara's review of the play for the Associated Press appears below:
NEW YORK -- To believe or not to believe.
It's a quandary at the heart of "Next Fall," Geoffrey Nauffts' compassionate exploration of faith that has made a smooth transfer from off-Broadway to the big time of Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre.
The play, which had a successful run last summer at Playwrights Horizons' small theater, is something of a risk on Broadway today. No stars. A playwright who's not well-known, although he has extensive acting credits and is artistic director of the theater company, Naked Angels. Don't let the lack of celebrity deter you. "Next Fall" is expertly cast, enormously entertaining and even laugh-filled despite the underlying seriousness of its subject matter.
This battle over religious beliefs is played out against the backdrop of a hospital drama where a comatose young man fights for his life. That grim prognosis hovers over the story, which is told in flashback. It's the tale of Adam and Luke (could the names be more Biblical?), partners whose relationship has been upended by a traffic accident in which Luke has been seriously injured.
As family and friends gather, the two men's history is told in bits and pieces. How they meet. How they move in together. And how their relationship starts to fray as Adam begins to question Luke's fundamentalist beliefs and his unwillingness to tell his family that he is gay.
Director Sheryl Kaller carefully balances the hospital scenes with the more intimate moments when the two men define and dissect what they believe or, more importantly, what they don't believe. Particularly the underachieving and constantly complaining Adam, who has never had much of a career. He is a quivering, quirky mass of neuroses, and Patrick Breen captures the man's every twitch.
Luke, a would-be actor, is more outwardly laid back and secure in his religion, but anxiety bubbles close to the surface, especially in terms of publicly declaring his sexuality. Patrick Heusinger exudes an easygoing Southern charm, a likability that masks, up to a point, his definite views of religion.
Family plays an important part in "Next Fall," most empathetically Luke's divorced parents: his rigid, conservative father (Cotter Smith) and his talkative, cheerfully scatterbrained mother (an ingratiating Connie Ray).
Yet friends are memorably portrayed, too. The sardonic, supportive Holly, brought to life in a wry, understated performance by Maddie Corman. And Brandon, a gay man whose own moral straitjacket is as tightly tied as Luke's. In one of the evening's best written - and compelling acted - scenes, Brandon explains his own strict moral beliefs. Sean Dugan pulls it off masterfully, calmly explaining his thoughts to a perplexed, more than dubious Adam.
One of the pleasures of "Next Fall" is Nauffts' evenhandedness in presenting both sides of an issue. The playwright doesn't preach or try to tell his compelling story only in black and white. He invests the play with a generosity that doesn't prejudge. Nauffts embraces both the virtues and foibles of his characters. And that inclusion makes "Next Fall" an even richer experience.
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