Billy Crystal plans his Broadway return in a familiar role
NEW YORK — Billy Crystal is not ready to say goodbye to “Mr. Saturday Night.”
The comic icon has turned his comedy film into a Broadway-bound musical and hopes to open it next year with him reprising his film role as Buddy Young Jr., a bitter, old insult comic chasing a last laugh.
“There’s something about this guy and that world that I love,” Crystal tells The Associated Press. “I think that we’ve brought this story and this character to a better place than I could have imagined even.”
Crystal has written the stage adaptation with his film’s co-writers — Lowell Ganz and Marc “Babaloo” Mandel — and married it to music by Jason Robert Brown and lyrics by Amanda Green. John Rando will direct.
“What the music has done to elevate the story and to propel the story and bring out dynamics in the characters is quite amazing to me,” Crystal says. “It’s something I couldn’t be more excited about, honestly.”
He will star opposite Tony Award-winner Randy Graff, Chasten Harmon and David Paymer, who will recreate his Oscar-nominated performance as Buddy’s brother, Stan Yankelman.
Crystal has just ended a developmental run of the show at the Barrington Stage Company in Massachusetts. Performances begin on Broadway on March 1, 2022, at the Nederlander Theatre.
This is Crystal’s first return to Broadway following his “700 Sundays,” which he premiered in 2004 and revisited in 2013. For the new show, American Express members get access to tickets starting Nov. 10; to the general public on Nov. 22.
Crystal made a name for himself first in comedy, from stand-up to TV’s “Soap” to the films “When Harry Met Sally” and “City Slickers.” Then in 1992, he got serious with “Mr. Saturday Night,” which he directed, co-wrote and starred in. He based the Buddy character in part on real comedians, including Alan King, Pat Cooper and Buddy Hackett.
In an interview, Crystal he recalls starting the shooting of the movie in Central Park 30 years ago at age 43 and needing six hours in the makeup chair, starting at 2 a.m.
“Now, all these years later, we don’t need the makeup,” he says. “I’m playing my own age. It’s much more freeing. It’s much more honest in a way.”
Instead of the film’s use of flashbacks, Crystal will portray a man he calls “Willy Loman with laughs” in every stage of his life. “The pain and the joy and the emotion that he goes through in the film, I get to do it live in front of people and they feel it and I feel them.”