Brendan Fraser, star of the
new Broadway comedy ELLING,
in the news
The new Broadway comedy ELLING, starring Brendan Fraser, Denis O’Hare, Jennifer Coolidge, Richard Easton and Jeremy Shamos, began performances this week at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre (243 West 47th Street). Directed by Tony Award-winner Doug Hughes, ELLING opens on Sunday, November 21 and will play a strictly limited engagement through March 20, 2011.
Brendan Fraser is featured on the cover of NYC Resident Magazine and in today’s Wall Street Journal.
BY RACHEL BOWIE
NYC Resident Magazine
Spend a few minutes talking to Brendan Fraser and one thing is clear: his passion for theater runs deep. This November, Fraser stars on Broadway in Elling, a comedy about a mismatched pair of roommates who, after meeting in a mental institution, are released to face the world and try to establish a normal life. Based on the Norwegian novel by Ingvar Ambjørnsen and its subsequent Oscar-nominated film of the same name, Elling is a story that Fraser knows well. Here, he talks about his return to the stage, and explains why landing a role on Broadway is his childhood fantasy come true.
Tell me about Elling — how would you describe the show?
The play is an adaptation from the screenplay of the same name that was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars in 2002. I got an Academy screener of the film that year, and kept it in my bag. If I was somewhere on location, I would watch it just for pleasure. It was a favorite film of mine.
Elling is an oddball story set in Norway about personality types that are completely opposite in the spirit of The Odd Couple or Of Mice and Men. It’s about how two misfits who found friendship in a mental asylum are given a second opportunity to prove themselves as fit members of society. They are sponsored with an apartment by the state and they must prove to do the so-called “normal” things that people do. Pay the bills, answer the phone, buy their own food, contend with the neighbors. As it goes, their story is billed as a comedy, but as I’ve been rehearsing it and getting to know it better, it’s far more touching than one would anticipate.
How would you describe the character you play?
My character’s name is Kjell [he says with a Norwegian accent]. We had a special meeting at rehearsal just to standardize the pronunciations of every character’s name! Kjell is described by his roommate Elling [played by Denis O’Hare] as an orangutan who is obsessed with food and sex. He is infinitely harmless, but he is the big man in a big-man, small-man bookending relationship. Elling is an intellectual, a momma’s boy, and a poet. The show proves that eccentricity — if you put it in a bottle — is worth something. It’s valuable.
Did you get a chance to catch the show in London?
I did. I saw the Bush Theatre production. I met Howard Panter [the show’s producer] three years ago. I don’t think Simon Bent [the show’s writer] had even done the adaptation at that point, but Howard told me, we want to do Elling as a play. I had some other commitments at the time, but I did see the production in London and I thought it was very good. The thought of doing it on Broadway was intriguing to me, not to mention it fulfills a life aspiration to do a show on the Great White Way!
BY ELLEN GAMERMAN
Wall Street Journal
November 5, 2010
Brendan Fraser takes off his pants and swaps underwear with his co-star on stage in the new comedy “Elling.” There’s no onstage nudity, but Mr. Fraser isn’t sure what response he’ll get. “People may go running from the aisles,” he said.
Mr. Fraser, though an occasional stage performer, is known largely for broad movie roles, including a swashbuckling adventurer (“The Mummy” movies) and a kindly knuckle-dragger (“George of the Jungle,” “Encino Man”). In “Elling,” he plays Kjell Bjarne, a nearly 40-year-old, virginal, hotdog-and-sex-obsessed slob. When he and his friend, the anxious poet Elling (Denis O’Hare of HBO’s “True Blood”), are released from a mental institution, the Norwegian odd couple must make it on their own in a shared Oslo apartment. Opening night is set for Nov. 21.
The script is based on a series of Norwegian novels and a 2001 film. Different versions of the play have been produced in 30 countries. This adaptation, by Simon Bent, was a commercial hit in London and Sydney.
Mr. Fraser had been a fan of the movie “Elling” for years. The 41-year-old divorced father of three sons, including an 8-year-old with autism, said he was drawn to the piece because he recognizes the mercurial nature of disabilities that are hard to define or diagnose. A tale of two off-kilter adults who can’t cope in the real world without each other “grips me by the gut and the heart,” he said.
ELLING is based on the popular original novels by Ingvar Ambjørnsen and adapted for the Oscar nominated film and the stage by Axel Hellstenius and Petter Næss, in a new English adaptation by critically hailed writer Simon Bent. ELLING played the West End and was nominated for the Lawrence Olivier Award for Comedy of the Year.
Set in the current day, ELLING is a comedy about a wildly mismatched pair of roommates trying to embrace life, love, friendship, pizza, poetry and women. Denis O’Hare plays obsessive/compulsive Elling. Brendan Fraser, plays the wildly enthusiastic gentle giant Kjell. Jennifer Coolidge plays Reidun, the object of Kjell’s considerable affection, Richard Easton plays Alfons, Elling’s unlikely poet mentor and Jeremy Shamos plays Frank, an inquisitive social worker.
The design team is comprised of Scott Pask (set), Kenneth Posner (lighting), Catherine Zuber (costumes) and David Van Tieghem (composer/sound designer).
Tickets are available through Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200, or in person at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th Street. Ticket prices range from $46.50 to $126.50 (all prices include $1.50 facilities fee).
The performance schedule is Tuesday through Saturday at 8pm, with matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm and Sunday at 3pm. No matinee performance Wednesday, November 3. Beginning, Tuesday, November 23, all Tuesday performances will begin at 7pm. Thanksgiving week, there will be no performance on Thursday, November 25 and, an additional performance on Monday, November 22 at 7pm.