Broadway and Beyond: Actress Debra Messing leads «Birthday Candles» to Broadway after rising to stardom on TV sitcom

NEW YORK — Star power never hurts on Broadway and for a show that’s about to start previews, it took a TV favorite to get there.

Debra Messing returns to Broadway starring in the new play «Birthday Candles» by Noah Haidle.

«I read Noah’s script and I laughed and I sobbed and I called up and I said, ‘Please, please let me do this play,'» Messing told CBS2’s Dave Carlin. «You age 90 years in 90 minutes and never leave the stage … After I said I have to do this, I said, ‘Oh my God, can I do this?’ It is a huge undertaking.»

The COVID pandemic temporarily stalled this play, where audiences witness an entire lifetime of one woman’s birthdays.

The world got to know Messing’s talent for physical comedy and perfect timing on the hit TV sitcom «Will and Grace.» Messing shot to stardom playing Grace Adler.

Acclaimed roles in films and TV series followed, and on the Broadway stage. The last time in 2017. «Outside Mullingar» by Patrick Shanley earned Messing a nomination for that year’s Tony Award for leading actress in a play.

«Birthday Candles» is funny, deep, mystical and a perfect vehicle for Messing, according to director Vivienne Benesch.

«We sent it to Debra and she immediately was like, ‘Yes please,'» Benesch said. «She is fearless, brave, compassionate and she is fierce in her investigation of the play.»

The playwright said the moment Messing got involved, the pieces fell into place.

«The only reason this is on Broadway is because of Debra,» Haidle said. «It’s like a magic trick because there’s no breaks. It happens in 90 minutes, real time, and all of a sudden her hair is up, all of a sudden the sweater’s on, all the sudden glasses are on, and you would never notice it, and then her voice changes very subtly, and then she’s 107. She’s so outrageously good.»

«You are going to leave with seeing this woman go and live through life,» actor John Earl Jelks said.

Messing told CBS2 this show can help audiences put the pandemic in perspective and find balance.

«And they will leave feeling like they need to really reassess their life,» Messing said. «To really reflect on what’s important in your life, in every stage of your life.»

Previews for «Birthday Candles» start March 18.

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