If you direct it, they will come


Academy Award–winning director Mike Nichols, X’53, returned to the Windy City last week to begin technical rehearsals for a medieval musical comedy.

Best known for the The Graduate, Nichols has new projects on both the big screen and the big stage—one heavy, the other light. His film Closer, a look at adultery based on Patrick Marbers’s play, has earned five Golden Globe nominations, including best director and best motion picture–drama. Back in Chicago, the musical Monty Python’s Spamalot, which begins pre-Broadway previews December 21 at the Shubert, has his attention.

Nichols got his start in local theater. In a December 10 Chicago Sun-Times article he recalled attending a production of The Matchmaker while at the University. “I saw that show three times, and by the third time—about 20 minutes into the first act—I thought: Now I know what style is. It’s starting something in such a manner that what needs to happen later in the show can come straight out of that beginning. And you can’t fake it; it must all really unfold in front of the audience.”

The Nichols style—an ironic sensibility, as one film writer put it—has won a loyal following. Commanding such big-name actors as Jude Law and Julia Roberts (Closer), David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria (Spamalot) doesn’t hurt with the audience either.

By M.L.

Photo: Broadway in Chicago.

December 15, 2004