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Broadway Series South Preview: "Sopranos" Star Lorraine Bracco Strips for National Tour of The Graduate

January 20, 2004 - Raleigh, NC:


Brooklyn-born movie, television, and stage actress Lorraine Bracco, who is, perhaps, most famous for playing the bespectacled Dr. Jennifer Melfi, psychiatrist for emotionally volatile mob boss Tony Soprano, in the award-winning HBO original cable-TV series "The Sopranos" (1999-Present) will play the infamous cradle-robbing Mrs. Robinson and doff her designer duds for a brief, dimly lit nude bedroom scene in the National Tour of the hilarious West End and Broadway stage adaptation of The Graduate, brought to Raleigh Memorial Auditorium Jan. 20-25 by Broadway Series South.

Bracco told The New York Times: "Mrs. Robinson is a great American icon. She is exciting, shocking, miserable, angry, desperate and a hell of a lot of fun to play. I guess a good way to put it is that she's a hoot. She's a piece of work, a very complicated woman. She's self-loathing. I understand her frustration and her desperation, with her marriage and her child."

As for the nude scene, Bracco said it does not faze her in the least. "It's part of the character," she told The New York Times. "It's part of her need to seduce, her way of getting Benjamin to pay attention to her."

Lorraine Bracco earned a 1991 Academy Award® nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as a Mafia wife in Goodfellas; and 1999, 2000, and 2001 Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and 2000, 2001, and 2002 Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series Drama for "The Sopranos." Bracco won the 1991 Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor and the 1990 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress for Goodfellas.

The Graduate is based on the Oscar-winning 1967 motion-picture version of Charles Webb's 1963 cult novel. That landmark film was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, and Katharine Ross. Hoffman, who was 30 years old(!) then, played impossibly innocent and clueless former college track star and recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock, who accompanies his parents to a party and gets seduced by an amorous and aggressive older woman (heavily made-up 36-year-old Anne Bancroft stole the show as sexy, shameless Mrs. Robinson), then decides that he really loves her daughter, the pretty but pretty shallow Elaine Robinson (Ross). When he confesses this May-December affair to Elaine, Benjamin quickly finds that Elaine and everyone else her age rates "sleeping with mother" as just about the biggest turnoff ever.

The Graduate was nominated for seven 1968 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Nichols), Best Actor (Hoffman), Best Actress (Bancroft), Best Supporting Actress (Ross), Best Cinematography (Robert Surtees), and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Calder Willingham and Buck Henry). But only Mike Nichols won.

Folk/pop duo Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel's hit single, "Mrs. Robinson," written especially for the movie, became a chart topper; and songwriter Paul Simon and composer Dave Grusin shared the 1969 Grammy Award for Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture.

The current stage adaptation of The Graduate drops some songs from the film's soundtrack, but it retains Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" and "the Sound of Silence" and adds Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talking (at Me)," as performed by Harry Nilsson for Midnight Cowboy (1969), and a new song by Simon and Garfunkel entitled "Baby Driver." Moreover, the soundtrack for this Broadway show includes songs not in the play, but instrumental in its development.

The West End and Broadway version of The Graduate, which Terry Johnson (Insignificance) adapted from Charles Webb's novel and Calder Willingham and Buck Henry's screenplay, is a hilarious coming-of-age story, still set in California in the 1960s. The show opened in London's West End in March 2000, with Kathleen Turner starring as Mrs. Robinson and Jerry Hall, Amanda Donahoe, Anne Archer, and Linda Gray following her in that plum role.

The Graduate opened in the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway on April 4, 2002, ran for 380 performances, and closed on March 2, 2003. Playwright Terry Johnson directed the original Broadway production, which starred Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Robinson and Jason Biggs as Benjamin Braddock. Alicia Silverstone (Clueless) made her Broadway debut as Elaine Robinson. In the fall of 2002, Lorraine Bracco made her Broadway debut as Mrs. Robinson.

The current National Tour, produced by Jon B. Platt and directed by Peter Lawrence, who served as production supervisor for the original Broadway production, features recordings of Simon and Garfunkel's and Harry Nilsson's hits, plus original music composed and arranged by Barrington Pheloung. The tour began last August in San Francisco's Curran Theatre, with Jerry Hall playing Mrs. Robinson. Bracco will join the tour on Jan. 20 at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, and she will play Mrs. Robinson through the show's Feb. 23-March 8 run at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago.

Besides 54-year-old Lorraine Bracco, this R-rated comedy stars recent Stanford University graduate Jonathan C. Kaplan as Benjamin Braddock and New York actress and regional-theater veteran Devon Sovari as Elaine Robinson. Kaplan is a Broadway veteran who earned a Tony Award® nomination for his performance as Jason in Falsettos (1992).

The cast also includes Dennis Parlato (Mr. Robinson), William Hill and Corinna May (Mr. and Mrs. Braddock), Kate Levy (Stripper), Tracy Griswold (Bartender/Priest/Motel Manager), John Leonard Thompson (Hotel Clerk/Bar Patron/Psychic), Nathan Corddry (Bellhop/Man in Bar), Winslow Corbett (Assistant Desk Clerk), and general understudies Brian Russell and Denise Cormier.

Besides producer Jon B. Platt and director Peter Lawrence, the production team for The Graduate includes set and costume designer Rob Howell, lighting designer Hugh Vanstone, and sound designer Christopher Cronin all of whom had a hand in creating the original Broadway production.

Critics hailed that production as: "A sensational triumph! The clever and silky smooth production is a major achievement for author/director Terry Johnson." "Fans of the film will be delighted to see their favorite bits and hear their favorite lines while getting more than just a screen-to-stage transcription to chew on." "The stage play of The Graduate is a better drama than the movie clever and awfully satisfying."

When Lorraine Bracco joined took over the starring role in The Graduate in the fall of 2002, the New York Post claimed "Lorraine Bracco is simply sensational as Mrs. Robinson."

Second Opinion: David Menconi's Jan. 16th News & Observer Preview: http://newsobserver.com/features/story/3234771p-2893184c.html [inactive 4/04].

Broadway Series South presents The Graduate Tuesday-Friday, Jan. 20-23, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 24, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 25, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $16-$66. BTI Box Office: 919/831-6060. Ticketmaster: 919/834-4000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/863757. Group Sales: 919/231-4575 or http://www.priorityseating.net/. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2003-2004/broadway.html#graduate. The Graduate (1967 Film): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061722/. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=13279. Lorraine Bracco: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000966/. "The Sopranos" (HBO Original Series, 1999-Present): http://www.hbo.com/sopranos/.