Thursday, October 7, 2010

Buckley workshops Mrs. Madrigal for ACT

by Richard Dodds
The Bay Area Reporter Online

American Conservatory Theater wants you to know that it is conducting a three-week workshop in October of the highly anticipated musical based on Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. It also wants you to know the names of the high-tone cast of the workshop run, including Tony Award-winning actress Betty Buckley as Barbary Lane landlady Anna Madrigal. But it regrets to inform you that you're not invited.

Even so, the closed-to-the-public workshop with its "star-studded cast" (ACT's term) suggests who may populate the musical when it begins regular performances on May 17. Of course, performers' availabilities and desires may change, and the creative team's assessments of the performances during the workshop may dictate different casting. But it's a pretty good bet that many names will remain the same, and with nothing to back up the following statement but gut instinct, I predict Betty Buckley will carry on as Mrs. Madrigal. She'll be following in Olympia Dukakis' footsteps, which themselves have trod many times across the ACT floorboards.

Betsy Wolfe, recently seen on Broadway in Everyday Rapture, will play SF newcomer Mary Ann Singleton, who learns a lot as one of Mrs. Madrigal's tenants. Wolfe also played Mary Ann in a developmental production last year at the O'Neill Theatre Center. (A bit of trivia: At the O'Neill, Mrs. Madrigal was played by Candy Buckley, who was once married to Betty Buckley's brother.) Mary Birdsong, as bisexual flower child Mona Ramsey, is another holdover from the O'Neill.

Tony nominee Stephen Borgardus, who played the AIDS-stricken Whizzer in Falsettos on Broadway, will play businessman Edgar Halcyon, who develops a special relationship with Mrs. Madrigal. Veteran New York actress Patti Allison has been cast as brothel madam Mother Mucca. Another Tony nominee, Manoel Felciano, has the role of sinister neighbor Norman Neal Williams.

Felciano is a member of ACT's core acting company, and ACT has tapped two graduates of its MFA program for important roles: Nick Gabriel as the happily gay Michael Tolliver, and Morgan Spector as the heterosexual lothario Brian Hawkes. A mix of local and national talent fills out the cast.

They'll be singing songs by Scissor Sisters members Jake Shears and John Garden, and speaking Jeff Whitty's adaptation of Maupin's novels Tales of the City and More Tales of the City. Whitty won a Tony Award for his libretto for Avenue Q, as did director Jason Moore for his staging of the grown-up Muppet-y musical.

Right now, the only way to get tickets to the official run of Tales of the City is by purchasing a subscription to ACT's 2010-11 season. If you want to stay abreast of developments, you can join the musical's email fan club at

Richard Dodds can be reached at

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