Roundabout’s MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION is currently in previews at the American Airlines Theatre on Broadway, where it opens officially on Sunday, October 3rd.
The Wall Street Journal
September 10, 2010
Mr. Hibbert’s Professions
There are times when you’ve squeezed all the juice possible out of a role. “The times,” believes actor Edward Hibbert, when “you finish it and think ‘I’ve got closure on that. I’ve made my peace with that particular part and that particular play.'”
Then there are all those other times.
Early last year, Mr. Hibbert played the architect and flaneur Mr. Praed in “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J. “I loved the experience. But it was only a four-week run, and there is such a landscape to mine,” said Mr. Hibbert, probably best known for his recurring role as the pompous, fey restaurant critic Gil Chesterton on the sitcom “Frasier.”
Thanks to the sometimes felicitous nature of Mr. Hibbert’s profession, he’s getting a second go at “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of the Shaw classic, starring Cherry Jones as the prosperous owner of a chain of brothels. A limited engagement, the play (directed by Doug Hughes) began previews last week and runs through Nov. 28.
“I’ve always had an affinity for this character Praed,” said Mr. Hibbert, 55, sitting on a couch in the lounge of the American Airlines Theatre where “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” is billeted. “He’s artistic and Bohemian in the midst of people dealing with finance and business. I hope my interpretation of him has improved like good wine.
“And,” he continued, “this play has so much texture. It leads you to believe it’s going to be an elegant comedy of manners, and then, savagely, it goes off in a different direction. It’s about so many things that seem to me to be timeless: hypocrisy, and the secrets we withhold.”
“Edward is brilliantly nimble on stage,” said Mr. Hughes in an email message. “He can turn on a dime and finds nuance in whatever he does. His work is always sharp, strong, witty and clean as a whistle.”
Mr. Hibbert was all but born in a trunk. His father, Geoffrey, had featured roles in British films like 1941’s “Love on the Dole” (he played Deborah Kerr’s brother) and Noël Coward’s 1942 war drama “In Which We Serve.” He also appeared in the 1954 West End musical-comedy sensation “The Boy Friend.”
“One day, my father got a call from the show’s director, who said, ‘We’d like you to come do it in New York,'” said Mr. Hibbert, who clearly has uncorked this story before and delights in each retelling. “‘We have this unknown girl. She’s 19, and she’s called Julie Andrews.’
“Dad said to my mother, ‘I hear New York is really brutal and if a show isn’t liked we’ll be home in a week. Let’s just see how it goes.’
“So he comes over and it was a huge success so my mum came and joined him. And we were all glad she did,” finished Mr. Hibbert, who made his own New York debut nine months later.
Growing up in Surrey, England, Mr. Hibbert turned the family’s two-tiered backyard into an open-air theater, and himself into the neighborhood impresario. “It was palpably clear early on that I wasn’t going to announce, ‘You know what? I want to go to Cambridge and study history,” he said. “But I was lucky. If you grow up in the home of working theatrical parents, you get a very eyes-wide-open look at the realities of the business.”
Mr. Hibbert—whose credits include the movies “Taking Woodstock” and “The Prestige”; guest shots on the TV series “Columbo,” “Murder She Wrote” and “Cosby”; and roles in Broadway musicals like “Me and My Girl,” “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “Curtains” (with his “Frasier” colleague David Hyde Pierce)—is one of those well-regarded, long-serving character actors with a familiar face and precious little name recognition.
“People will come up to me and start by saying, ‘I think we’ve met before,'” he said. “And I want to go, ‘No, it’s probably that you have me on your TV with the sound down.’
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