The Alley Theatre’s production of the Arthur Miller classic “Death of a Salesman” is back on track, with a new star in place and preview performances beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The show’s entire run was delayed when veteran Alley actor James Black had to withdraw from his leading role as Willy Loman because of a health problem, just before previews were to begin last weekend.
The situation came as a particular disappointment for Black, the company and longtime fans of the Alley, because it deprived him of the opportunity to make the demanding role of Willy Loman the capstone of his 30-year career at the Alley, which has included memorable turns as several Miller protagonists, including Eddie Carbone in “A View from the Bridge,” John Proctor in “The Crucible” and Quentin (surrogate for Miller himself) in the autobiographical “After the Fall.”
“I must put my health above all and step away from this great production,” Black said in a statement from the theater, apologizing to subscribers and ticketholders. On his doctor’s advice, he said he left the production “with a heavy heart, knowing how exceptional this show is going to be given the talents of all involved.”
Alley director of marketing and communications Rodi Franco said all at the theater were confident that Black will make a full recovery and return to the Alley for future projects.
Actor Glenn Fleshler, who understudied Philip Seymour Hoffman in the recent Broadway revival of “Salesman,” has stepped into the role. He arrived Tuesday to begin rehearsals with director Gregory Boyd and the company.
Franco said that Boyd will not designate an official opening night for the production until after the first previews this weekend, but that it likely will be Wednesday or Thursday. The production runs through Oct. 28 on the Alley’s Hubbard Stage, the larger of the theater’s two venues.
Though it is the second show of the new season (following last month’s Neuhaus Stage production of “November”), the Alley’s first large stage show has a certain built-in “event” status, as it’s the slot usually filled by a revered world theater classic such as “Our Town” or “Cyrano de Bergerac.”
Patrons still are advised to check with the box office for possible schedule updates. Tickets ($26-$78) are available at 713-220-5700 and alleytheatre.org