Esparza, Dale Are New Group's Comedians, Opening Jan. 15
By Christine Ehren
15 Jan 2003

Black comedy and working class discontent form a bitter marriage in Trevor Griffith's Comedians, opening Jan. 15 in an Off-Broadway revival starring Raul Esparza and Tony Award winner Jim Dale.

This New Group production, directed by Scott Elliott, began performances Jan. 3, 2003, at the Beckett Theatre. Comedians closes Feb. 23 after changing venues to the Acorn Theatre (located, like the Beckett, in the new Theatre Row complex).

Set in proletariat Manchester, England, Comedians delivers a slice of class conflict as a group of disparate funnymen struggle to make it through an after-hours course in comedy taught by former working comedian Eddie Waters (Dale). Their teacher's favorite, an angry young man (Esparza), uses their final exam — performing an act for an audience and agents — as a chance to inflict rage on his "betters" in a brutal routine.

Since his discovery as Che in the recent national tour of Evita, Esparza has worked almost continually in musical theatre, though he did have a rich regional theatre life. He created the role of Riff Raff in the recent revival of The Rocky Horror Show and John in Off Broadway's tick, tick...BOOM!, then went on to play the Emcee twice in Broadway's Cabaret, while also working in workshops of Assassins and Urban Cowboy. In the Kennedy Center's 2002 Sondheim Celebration, he appeared in Merrily We Roll Along and Sunday in the Park With George.

Dale won a Tony Award for the lead role in Barnum and last appeared on Broadway as Dr. Pangloss/Voltaire in 1997's Candide. He performed Gethin Price in the 1977 Mark Taper Forum production of Comedians.

Also in the cast are Max Baker (What the Butler Saw, Goose-Pimples), Ismail Bashey, James Beecher, Gordon Connell, Allan Corduner (Titanic, "Topsy Turvey"), William Duell (The Man Who Came to Dinner, 1776), Jamie Harris, David Lansbury (Hedda Gabler), David McCallum (Amadeus, "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.") and Marcus Powell.

New Group artistic director Scott Elliott directs. Designing the show are Derek McLane (sets), Jason Lyons (lighting), Mimi O'Donnell (costumes) and Ken Travis (sound). Stephen Gabis will teach the cast the various Mancester dialects.

Performances Feb.5 through the 23 will be held at the Acorn Theatre, also located in the Theatre Row Complex. For more information on the New Group, call (212) 691-6730 or visit