NEW YORK (Reuters) - Double Tony-winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy romance “You Can’t Take It With You” along with Australian actress Rose Byrne, who is making her Broadway debut.
The play, about a loving but odd American family, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937. Previews begin on Aug. 26 and the play opens on Sept. 28 for a limited 19-week run.
Jones (“Fences,” “The Great White Hope”), who last appeared on Broadway in a revival of Gore Vidal’s “The Best Man” in 2012, is Martin Vanderhof. He heads a multiracial cast as the income tax-averse patriarch of the family in the role made famous by Lionel Barrymore in Frank Capra’s 1938 Oscar-winning film of the same name.
“It is about forces attracting each other in the family. It’s like they are in orbit and the principle is that you can be yourself as long as you don’t hurt anyone else,” Jones, 83, said in an interview, with his famously resonating voice.
Vanderhof gave up his job decades earlier and hasn’t paid any taxes for just as long. He wants all of his extended clan to find happiness.
Trouble brews when his granddaughter Alice (Byrne), the sanest member of the family and a secretary in a Wall Street firm, falls in love with the boss’s son, Tony Kirby. Actor Fran Kranz, 33, takes on the role played by James Stewart in the film.
“Inside the action of the play she finds the man of her dreams and there is a problem, a class problem,” Jones said about the family dilemma.
Alice is torn between her devotion for her wacky clan and the man she loves. His snobbish, upper-crust family disapprove of the match.
“If just felt really right,” Byrne, 35, said about the role, although she admitted to being nervous about her first venture on Broadway.
“It’s a period piece. It’s a classic, beloved play that hasn’t been done in since the 80s,” added Byrne, who appeared in the hit comedy “Bridesmaids” and superhero action film “X-Men: First Class.”
The 1983 Broadway revival of the Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman play starred Jason Robards as grandpa. The popular play was also made into a TV series and TV movie.
Byrne sees her character as a conduit for the audience and the voice of reason. Although she loves her family, she is aware and somewhat embarrassed that they are unconventional. Because of the differences between them, Alice believes a marriage to her fiance would never work.
“The idea of the American family is such an interesting, morphing concept. This is a very modern family, even for the 30s, obviously it was an incredibly modern play,” said Byrne.
“The themes and the sentiments behind it are still relevant and kind of radical,” she said.
Editing by Mary Milliken and Frances Kerry