209th Anniversary Season · America's Oldest · Founded 1809

Walnut Street Theatre Begins the New Year with Loads of Laughs in Neil Simon's LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR! Begins Jan. 17

December 27, 2016

Philadelphia, PA: Walnut Street Theatre continues its landmark 208th season with Neil Simon’s classic comedy, LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR. Directed by Frank Ferrante, the play begins previews on January 17th, opens on January 25th and runs through March 5th on the Walnut’s Mainstage. This production is part of a double feature of Simon’s work at the Walnut, as Last of the Red Hot Lovers will begin performances the in the Independence Studio on 3 on January 10th.

Neil Simon gives audiences a peek into the writer's room of a hit 1950's television show in LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR. People everywhere gather around the TV each week to watch their favorite comedian Max Prince. He's loud, brash and larger than life. His temper tantrums and one-liners have the power to make careers, or make misery for the writers working around him. The network censors want to change the show to make it more "advertiser friendly." But messing with Max can only mean the jokes and jabs will get funnier and wilder in an uncertain future, as the world of television heads for change. LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR has been called "Simon's funniest play!"

Neil Simon used inspiration from his time writing for the popular 1950’s variety television program Your Show of Shows to create LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR. Starring Sid Caesar, and with writers including Mel Brooks and Mel Tolkin, most of the characters in the play are based on the writers Simon worked with during that time in his career. LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR premiered on Broadway in 1993 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre and later became a television movie. Both starred Nathan Lane as Max Prince.

One of America’s most popular playwrights, Neil Simon has been recognized with many awards for his work, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, multiple Tony Awards, Emmy Awards, Evening Standard Award, Writers Guild of America Awards, Outer Critics Award, Golden Globe Award, Drama Desk Award and the Mark Twain Prize. He is also a Kennedy Center Honoree and an inductee into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. The Alvin Theatre on Broadway was renamed Neil Simon Theatre in 1983. He has written over 30 plays and is considered to be one of the most successful playwrights in the world. His work for the stage includes Come Blow Your Horn; Little Me; Barefoot in the Park; The Odd Couple; Sweet Charity; The Star-Spangled Girl; Plaza Suite; Promises, Promises; The Gingerbread Lady; The Prisoner of Second Avenue; The Sunshine Boys; Brighton Beach Memoirs; Biloxi Blues; The Odd Couple; Broadway Bound; Rumors; Lost in Yonkers; The Goodbye Girl, many of which the Walnut has produced. The Walnut produced the world premiere of Simon’s Hotel Suite in 1999. Additionally, Simon has authored books, written films, teleplays and movies for television.

Director and actor Frank Ferrante returns to the Walnut as director and as Max Prince. Both are titles he held when the Walnut produced LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR twenty years ago. Ferrante noted, "I am thrilled to be back. I've acted and directed in Philadelphia, at the Walnut, many times over the past twenty-five years. I love this city and am humbled again to share this piece with audiences. Truly, this is an opportunity to work with some of the city's finest comic actors in Mr. Simon's play, which pays tribute to the art of making comedy. I anticipate a wildly fun rehearsal process and exhilarating results."

On the Walnut’s Mainstage, Ferrante has directed shows including Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound and Lost in Yonkers. He directed and performed in shows including The Sunshine Boys and Groucho: A Life in Revue. He made his Off- Broadway debut in Groucho, for which he earned New York's Theatre World Award and an Outer Critic’s Circle Award nomination. He also performed in the show’s West End run, for which he was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award. At Walnut's Independence Studio on 3, Ferrante wrote and starred in By George and directed the world premiere of Old Wicked Songs, a subsequent Pulitzer Prize finalist. Ferrante continues to perform his comic creation 'The Caesar' in cirque/cabaret venues worldwide, including with Teatro ZinZanni. Ferrante is also the question to a Jeopardy answer: “He took his portrayal of Groucho Marx to New York in 1986."

The cast includes actors who are all familiar to the Walnut. Davy Raphaely returns as the sincere new writer Lucas, having most recently been seen in Peter and the Starcatcher. Steve Perlmutter, who was in the Walnut’s production of LAUGHTER in 1997, returns as the gag man Milt. Tony Freeman (Lost in Yonkers, The Goodbye Girl) will play the senior member of the writing staff, Val, and Anthony Lawton (A Moon for the Misbegotten) will play the Brain. Jesse Bernstein, who played Eugene Jerome in Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound on the Walnut’s stage, returns as the most sophisticated of the writers, Kenny. The only female writer on staff, Carol, will be played by Leah Walton (The Odd Couple) and Helen, Max’s secretary, will be played by Ellie Mooney (The Wizard of Oz). Scott Greer (Of Mice and Men), who was most recently seen in the Independence Studio on 3 in A Child’s Christmas in Wales, will play the hypochondriac Ira.

Creating an office space that’s the source of hilarious material from Max Prince’s team, with coffee-stained floors and the iridescent glow of office lights, the Walnut welcomes back set designer David P. Gordon. Gordon’s previous designs were seen on the Walnut’s stage for the Brighton Beach Trilogy. He is joined by costume designer Mark Mariani, whose work was most recently seen at the Walnut in Last of the Red Lovers and Harvey. J. Dominic Chacon (Peter and the Starcatcher, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice) returns as lighting designer, along with award-winning sound designer Christopher Colucci (Peter and the Starcatcher, And Then There Were None).

LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR runs at the Walnut January 17 through March 5. Open captioning will be available for the 7pm performance on Sunday, February 12. This production is sponsored by AIG and Aqua America. PNC Arts Alive is the Walnut’s Community Partner for LAUGHTER ON THE 23RD FLOOR. Media Partners are NBC 10 and Metro. For tickets and information, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787. Tickets are also available online 24/7 by visiting www.WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.