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Blythe Danner and ‘Glee’s’ Jonathan Groff in Reading of ‘Butterflies Are Free’ at Westport Country Playhouse on June 7


Blythe Danner

Blythe Danner

Forty seasons ago, Westport Country Playhouse staged Butterflies Are Free with Blythe Danner as the ingenious girl who falls in love with a blind boy, played by Keir Dullea. A success in Westport, the comedy transferred to Broadway, where it ran over three years, earning Danner a Tony Award. The play remains in the Playhouse’s annals as one of some 36 productions that made the giant leap from Westport to Broadway.

The hit comedy and its original stars will return to the Playhouse for one night only when Butterflies Are Free is reprised as the 80th anniversary celebration Script in Hand on Monday, June 7, 7 p.m. Keir Dullea will host the evening; Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents) will play the over-protective mother.

Jonathan Groff (Glee, Spring Awakening) will appear as the self-reliant sightless man; Betty Gilpin (Ghost Town) is cast as the kooky free-spirit who tries to help him break from his mother’s smothering influence; and Andrew Grusetskie (Westport Country Playhouse’s Around the World in 80 Days) will portray the playboy director who threatens their new-found love.

“This is a perfect way to celebrate the Playhouse’s 80th season, with a revival of one of the plays that originated there and went on to Broadway,” said Dullea.

Jonathan Groff

Jonathan Groff

Curated and produced by Anne Keefe, Playhouse artistic advisor, the Script in Hand Series brings together professional actors to read works by master playwrights. Tickets are $15, on sale beginning Thursday, May 13, 12 noon.

“So much of the theater is about connections,” said Keefe. “When Mark Shanahan, one of our Playhouse regulars, mentioned that his friend Jonathan Groff would be in town in June, I thought it would be fun to do a reading of an important play in our history with such a hot young star. Given Blythe Danner’s original connection to the piece, it was a short leap to thinking that she should be involved again. I’ve known Betty Gilpin, the daughter of Playhouse alumni Jack Gilpin and Ann McDonough, since she was born. I’ve watched her career blossom and thought she’d be perfect as the young girl.

“It all just came together, and seemed a wonderful way to celebrate our successes during this 80th anniversary season,” Keefe added.

Blythe Danner’s Broadway credits include a Tony Award for Butterflies Are Free and Tony Award nominations for Betrayal, A Streetcar Named Desire and Follies. Her films include Alice, The Great Santini, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge and Sylvia with daughter Gwyneth Paltrow. She won two Emmy Awards for Showtime’s Huff.

Betty Gilpin’s work off-Broadway includes the current play, That Face at Manhattan Theatre Club, Good Boys and True and Boys Life. At Williamstown Theatre Festival she appeared in What Is the Cause of Thunder? Her films are Death in Love, The Northern Kingdom and Ghost Town. Television credits include Past Life, The Unusuals, Possible Side Effects, Fringe, New Amsterdam, Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Medium.

Jonathan Groff’s credits include Broadway’s Spring Awakening, for which he received a Tony Award nomination, and In My Life. Off-Broadway he appeared in Prayer for My Enemy, for which he earned an Obie Award. His films include Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock, Twelve Thirty and Robert Redford’s upcoming movie, The Conspirator. Television appearances include Glee and Pretty/Handsome.

Andrew Grusetskie appeared in Around the World in 80 Days at Westport Country Playhouse last season. He is a founding member of Split Knuckle Theatre and an associate artist with ACTIVE EYE. Regional work includes Olney Theatre, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, Northern Stage and McCarter Theatre. New York credits include Women’s Project, Edge Theater Company and Stage 13.

Director is Mark Shanahan, who recently directed The 39 Steps at Alley Theatre. He has also directed for Penguin Rep and Actors Theatre of Nantucket. He has made many appearances on the stage at Westport Country Playhouse, including David Copperfield, Sedition, Tryst and last season’s Around the World in 80 Days.

Playwright Leonard Gershe (1922 – 2002) wrote the book for the musical Destry Rides Again in 1959, and in 1969 the play, Butterflies Are Free. He wrote the lyrics for the Born in a Trunk sequence from the Judy Garland musical A Star Is Born, and a number of episodes of The Lucy Show. His screen credits include Funny Face (1958 Academy Award nomination), 40 Carats and Butterflies Are Free.

Script in Hand Series curator Anne Keefe co-directed with Joanne Woodward Westport Country Playhouse’s production of David Copperfield. She directed two Script in Hand readings earlier this season, And Then There Were None and Harvey. She is a former Westport Country Playhouse artistic director and currently serves as artistic advisor.

The Script in Hand Series is supported, in part, by the White Barn Program of the Lucille Lortel Foundation and the Newman’s Own Foundation.

Compiled from the press release courtesy of Westport Country Playhouse (website | profile | tag archive).

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