1:40pm PT by Chris Gardner
Sean Hayes' 'An Act of God' Opening Night Draws A-List Crowd
Sean Hayes may not be God, but just like the Higher Power upstairs, he does have a lot of Hollywood friends. Many of those bold-faced name buddies turned out on Wednesday night to see the actor playing the title character in An Act of God at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.
Allison Janney, Jane Lynch, Nia Vardalos, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Wilson Cruz, Suzanne Cryer, Chris Diamantopoulos, Kate Flannery, Ian Gomez, Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, Will Sasso, Jason Stuart, Michole Briana White and Miranda Cosgrove attended opening night. So did Todd Milliner, Hayes' longtime Hazy Mills producing partner. (Adorable sighting: Hayes' longtime publicist Melissa Kates clutching an oversized, stuffed heart for her client in place of traditional opening-night flowers.)
Uber-producers Zadan and Meron are a pair of Hayes' close pals and told The Hollywood Reporter from their seats moments before the curtain opened that they wouldn't miss his big night. "We're best friends with Sean Hayes," Zadan explained, offering the list of projects they've collaborated on, including Broadway's Promises, Promises, the film The Bucket List and TV's Martin and Lewis. "We've done so many projects with him and are talking about many more, so of course if he's having an opening night, we're here. We love him."
Meron joked, "We always thought he was God-like to begin with. It's perfect casting."
Speaking of casting, Emmy winner Hayes takes over a role originated on Broadway last year by fellow Emmy winner Jim Parsons. In keeping with the play's tongue-in-cheek humor, promotional materials from Center Theatre Group for Act of God claim that the Joe Mantello-directed, Jeffrey Finn-produced production is "based on the critically acclaimed book written by God and transcribed by David Javerbaum." Javerbaum, a 13-time Emmy winner, is known for his work on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. He also curates the Twitter account @TheTweetOfGod, which counts 2.29 million followers.
The Parsons version kept up with current events by tweaking lines during its run, and the West Coast production also feels fresh with some relevant news updates, while Hollywood also features prominently. In addition to digs at Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Adam Sandler, Lindsay Lohan, Sarah Palin and Shia LaBeouf, there are jokes about Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and the recent Iowa caucuses. Hayes clearly worked to personalize his part, adding in some well-received jokes that played off his iconic Will & Grace character, Jack MacFarland.
Ferguson checked out the New York production and tells THR that he got tipped off to the changes as the play switched coasts. "It's one of those plays that can morph into the right fit for whoever plays the part," he explains. "And Sean is a friend of mine and I'm really excited for him to do this."
Nia Vardalos, who next stars in the sequel to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, cops to being more than just friends with Hayes. "Whether Sean admits it or not, he's my best friend, and one day we could be engaged," she jokes. "Again, that might be news to him."
What's not a joke: Vardalos reveals that Hayes sneaked some of Act of God's best bits to her over dinner recently. "I was immediately hooked," she says, before returning to a good one-liner. "He likes to pretend he's God anyway, so I'm sure the show will be successful."
Hayes has a fan already in Cruz. "I try to come to as many opening nights as I possibly can here. I love this space," Cruz dishes to THR. "I read a recent interview Sean did and I was, again, thoroughly impressed by his commitment to the work, his career and the trajectory of it. He's an inspiration to me."
He also seems to have inspired Cosgrove. The Nickelodeon star next co-stars in the Hayes-produced NBC comedy Crowded, one of the reasons she snagged a ticket for opening night. "He's really funny," she laughs. "Even before I met him, I would watch Will & Grace with my mom and I would always look forward to him coming onscreen. He's hilarious. There's something about him, he's got a real spark."
L.A.-area audiences can catch that spark on stage as Act of God runs through March 13 at the CTG/Ahmanson.
James Gleason (left), Sean Hayes and David Josefsberg pose for a selfie in “An Act of God,” now playing at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Tickets are available at CenterTheatreGroup.org. (Photo Credit: Jim Cox)
Sean Hayes and Jane Lynch share a moment backstage after the opening-night performance of "An Act of God" at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, 2016. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)
Playwright David Javerbaum (left) and producer Jeffrey Finn arrive for the opening-night performance of "An Act of God" at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, 2016. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)
Neil Meron arrives for the opening-night performance of "An Act of God" at Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, 2016. (Photo by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging)