Ian McKellen’s high-priced ‘Lear’ to be a freebie on TV

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

It’s reasonable to assume that more than a few Southern California theater buffs were left raging against the cruelty of fate and the human condition back in October 2007. They had been victimized not by stone-hearted daughters, but by forces of supply and demand that conspired against their scoring tickets to see Ian McKellen full-frontally fronting the Royal Shakespeare Company in a very limited run of ‘King Lear’ at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

Scalpers were commanding Springsteenian prices -- upward of $1,500 a ticket -- for ducats to one of the six performances (top face value: $90).

Now comes the consolation prize for the ticketless -- and, for the fortunate few who did get to attend, a chance to relive the experience. Following their performances on tour, Sir Ian and the rest of the key cast members seen in L.A. let it all hang out for television cameras in a British studio, under the eye of director Trevor Nunn. The result is scheduled to be broadcast starting March 25 on PBS stations, courtesy of the ‘Great Performances’ series produced by New York’s WNET.

No word at the moment as to whether Sir Ian’s royal member has been deemed suitable for Stateside viewing.


Kevin Kline with a sword and schnozz , however, is clearly kosher for television: The star’s turn as Cyrano de Bergerac was captured live on camera a year ago, during the last days of the Edmond Rostand play’s Broadway revival. It will premiere Jan. 7 on PBS, again under the ‘Great Performances’ marquee.

Musical buffs shouldn’t feel left out: A concert performance of ‘Chess,’ the 1986 show by Abba partners Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, with lyrics and book by Tim Rice, is also scheduled to air on PBS during 2009, with Josh Groban, Idina Menzel (‘Wicked’) and Adam Pascal (‘Rent’) taking key roles in the performance recorded last May at London’s Royal Albert Hall. (Reprise Theatre Company will be mounting a production of ‘Chess’ at UCLA May 5-17.)

-- Mike Boehm

Photo credits: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times (top); Johnny Quixote