The story of Side Man

Side Man has been germinating within Warren Leight his entire life. He has used aspects of it as a stand-up routine he has performed and in short stories he has written. In the summer of 1995 the New York Stage and Film Company under the direction of Mr. Manning presented an early reading of the piece at its summer home in Vassar. That reading featured much of the cast still in it today. That led to a New York reading in the Spring of 1996 at the West Bank Cafe presented by Naked Angels. In July, 1996, a production was mounted at the NYS&F at Vassar College where it first came to the attention of Jay Harris and the Weissberger Theater Group. (NYS&F, Naked Angels and WTG are all nonprofit off and off-off Broadway companies). In the winter of 1997, Jay Harris and Peter Manning (having left NYS&F) decided to join forces and bring the play in under the auspices of WTG. The production opened in March of 1998 at the CSC Theater - it is not and has never been associated with the Classic Stage Company, just a theater rental - where it received tremendous critical acclaim and audience response. In May, when it came time to move, WTG and Manning were looking in the direction of a larger off-Broadway house. The Roundabout Theater Company had their summer production fall out and approached the Side Man producers. The result was a Roundabout (still in the nonprofit realm)/Weissberger/Manning collaboration to continue the play on Broadway.

Reviewed again, and acclaimed by audiences with the same enthusiasm, the play ran successfully all summer until another schedule conflict (Little Me was coming in) forced the producers to make another decision.

Had Side Man played out its run? It had been successfully received off-Broadway, then made the unusual move to a Broadway non-profit known more for revivals. Was that it? Although the Roundabout had sold out continuously over the summer with the show that was an emergency replacement, they chose not to participate as producers in a move to a commercial house. The Weissberger Theater Group's Jay Harris and Peter Manning brought in three additional producers, Ron Kastner, James Cushing and Joan Stein. They also brought in a little Hollywood luminescence (Christian Slater, in the pivotal role of Clifford, to replace Robert Sella - who had moved into the role of The Emcee in the smash hit Cabaret), and moved the show - yet again - into a critically and commercially acclaimed legitimate Broadway engagement. The show received its third set of rave reviews in one year - another first! 

In January, Edie Falco made her Broadway debut in the role she originated three years ago, when she rejoined the cast as Terry. She was unable to continue with the production when it moved from downtown to the Roundabout because of her ongoing role as a prison matron in the HBO series "Oz," and she is currently winning rave reviews as the Mafia wife Carmela in their new series "The Sopranos." On March 2nd, Robert Sella returns to the company as Clifford, the play's narrator and conscience, which he originated downtown, from an 11-week stint as The Emcee in the critically-acclaimed Cabaret.

In March, 1999, the entire original cast that opened the play at the CSC Theater one year earlier will be together onstage at the Golden Theater. This has been an incredible journey taken by Side Man and the producers who have brought it along - nurturing it creatively and financially - to become a "Big Hit" from "Small Theaters" to a real contender in the Broadway arena - and more importantly, that absolute rarity - a new American play that touches the hearts and minds of all who see it.




Read more about the music and the play with a few notes from Playwright Warren Leight...









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