The scandalous romance between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor seems almost quaint today, in our world full of paparazzi, infidelity and dramatic entanglements. But in 1963, the love affair between the two stars of the blockbuster film “Cleopatra” was global news and is credited with ushering in the age of “tabloid celebrity.” Their love was full of ups and downs but had a timeless quality – Burton wrote a final love letter to Taylor that she received after returning home from his funeral. Audiences loved their on-screen chemistry and have been fascinated with their off-screen drama for decades. Both actors were married at the time their relationship ignited on the film set and their affair brought condemnation from the Vatican and the United States Congress.
The Alley Theatre (www.AlleyTheatre.org) is presenting the world premiere of “Cleo” from April 6–29. Set during the filming of “Cleopatra,” it is the story of the affair between Taylor and Burton and the worldwide scandal that followed. “Cleo” playwright Lawrence Wright is a Texas-based author, screenwriter and playwright; and the director is nationally renowned actor, author, producer and director Bob Balaban. New York-based Lisa Birnbaum is Elizabeth Taylor and Los Angeles-based actor Richard Short will be Richard Burton.
“Cleopatra” was one of the most expensive films ever made (it cost $334 million when adjusting for inflation) and even though it was the highest grossing movie of 1963, it was considered a bomb because of the cost, which almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox. The film was a massive undertaking; there were 26,000 costumes (with 65 costume changes for Taylor!) and 79 sets. True to the style of the film, the Alley production also features lavish sets and costumes as the story goes behind the scenes of the film and explores what sparked the sexual revolution in Rome in 1963. It will certainly be delicious to see!
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