By Ellis Nassour
Boyd Gaines, the Tony and DD-winner for Contact and Tony winner for Roundabout’s 1993 revival of She Loves Me, has starred in such musicals as the 1995 revival of Company [as Bobby] and the Lincoln Center Theatre revival of Anything Goes.
However, he's proved himself equally adept in heavy dramas, such as Roundabout’s recent Twelve Angry Men revival and The Heidi Chronicles, for which he won his first Tony. Now, he’s doing it again in the revival of Journey’s End, which started previews last night. It’s one of the most dramatic and provocative roles he’s played in a drama that has a fascinating past.
For Journey's End, Gaines has won the 2007 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor, Play and is Tony-nominated as Best Actor, Play. Following the demise of Journey's End, he will join Patti Lupone at City Center Encores! special summer event of Gypsy, playing Herbie. Regarding Journey's End, it was nominated by Drama Desk and the Tonys for Outstanding/Best Revival.
He says he was very honored to be cast in Journey's End because it's as timely now as it was way, way, way back when.
“It enjoyed an acclaimed run in London in 2004,” says Gaines. “It was supposed to run for two months to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the original production. It ended up spanning two and a half years.” Two Broadway productions followed, in 1929 and 1939.
Based on a true experience of friendship, bonding and survival, the play by R.C. Sherriff, is set against World War I and follows a group of British officers “as they await their day of reckoning” while fighting the last great German offensive.
"It’s a taunt, remarkable play,” reports Gaines, “and an extraordinary experience. Ironically, it almost never got produced.”
Gaines is Lieutenant Osborne, the second in command. Hugh Dancy [Emmy Award nominee, HBO’s Elizabeth I opposite Dame Helen Mirren], is making his Broadway debut as commanding officer Stanhople.
Gaines cannot say enough about how dedicated to the play Dancy is. "Working with Hugh has been one of the great pleasures of my career." He also felt that Dancy deserved recognition by the various awards nominating committees. "His performance is a real watermark for him. Audiences are quite moved by how he handles the plays dilemnas."
Co-starring are Tony/DD winner Jefferson Mays [Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning I Am My Own Wife] and Stark Sands [film, Flags of Our Fathers; TV, Six Feet Under], who’s also making his stage debut.
In 1928, when insurance agent Sherriff sent out his manuscript, no one was interested. WWI had ended ten years previously. In that conflict, 770,000 British lives were lost and another three million were injured.
“Not surprisingly,” notes director David Grindley, who also helmed the West End revival, "the subject was considered too painful to address as theater.”
The play was given readings, directed by James Whale, and co-starred then unknown Laurence Olivier [as Stanhope]. Despite tremendous critical reaction, producers still wouldn’t risk mounting it. Maverick producer Maurice Browne bucked the odds and opened it in January, 1929. Olivier was unable to return because of a prior commitment and was replaced by Colin Clive.
"Even with critical raves,” Grindley reports, “ticket sales remained slow. But, as word of mouth spread, every performance was sold out. By the end of the year there were thirteen productions in English, including one on Broadway, and seventeen across Europe.”
The play proved a cathartic experience for a generation and transformed the lives of its creators. Sherriff penned such British cinema classics as Goodbye, Mr. Chips and The Four Feathers. Whale and Clive came to Hollywood as director and star of Frankenstein; with Whale going on to helm Journey’s End film adaptation as well as The Invisible Man, Waterloo Bridge and the first sound Show Boat. Browne wasn’t so fortunate. A string of failures followed and he ended his life in poverty.
“Journey’s End needs to be seen now more than ever,” says Grindley. “It doesn’t make a strident message, but there is one – that there must be a better way to conduct human affairs. I’m sure it will have a great impact with Broadway audiences.”