Kevin Kline is returning to Broadway for the first time in almost a decade, playing a self-obsessed stage actor in a revival of Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter.” The farce opens at the St. James Theater in April 2017, just weeks before the eligibility cutoff date for the 71st Tony Awards, which air June 11th on CBS. That timeliness could boost Kline’s chances in the Tony race for Best Actor in a Play.
This Oscar winner for his comic turn in “A Fish Called Wanda” (Best Supporting Actor, 1988), began his career on the New York stage. A Juilliard graduate, he won his first Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for “On The Twentieth Century” in 1978 and followed that three years later with another win, this time for his leading role in a revival of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta “The Pirates of Penzance.” He was nominated as Best Actor in a Play in 2004 for playing Falstaff in a production of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV.”
In “Present Laughter,” Kline will play Garry Essendine, a vain stage actor who must navigate a sea of troubles including an estranged ex-wife, an over-eager young playwright, a seductive young actress, excessive drinking and his own mid-life crisis. The role of Garry, which Coward claimed was a self-caricature, has been played in previous productions by the likes of Frank Langella, Victor Garber, George C. Scott, Albert Finney, Ian McKellan, and the playwright himself, who created the role in the premiere production.
Though “Present Laughter” has not historically been a Tony magnet — the show’s only nominations were for Best Play Revival in 1996 and Best Scenic Design in 2010 — performances in other Coward-authored plays have reaped Tony wins for a number of actors. Tammy Grimes (1969) and Lindsay Duncan (2002) each claimed Best Actress in a Play honors for “Private Lives.” And stage legend Angela Lansbury won her fifth Tony in 2009 for her featured role in Coward’s “Blithe Spirit.”