‘M. Butterfly’ Marks Clive Owen’s Triumphant Return to Broadway

What happens when a married Frenchman falls for a beautiful Chinese opera singer? And what happens when that opera singer turns out to be a man playing a woman? A wonderful yet haunting 20-year relationship, according to the play “M. Butterfly.”

Academy Award nominated actor Clive Owen stars as the conflicted Frenchman, Rene Gallimard, in the new Broadway production of “M. Butterfly.” Directed by Tony winner Julie Taymor, the show officially opens Oct. 26 at the historic Cort Theatre. The Cort Theatre opened in 1912, and has been home to numerous award-winning shows, including this year’s Tony nominated historical play, “Indecent.”

“M. Butterfly” was written by noted playwright David Henry Hwang in 1988. Hwang read about the true story of Gallimard and his lover in a New York Times article, and immediately set about writing an adaptation. He subsequently won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Original Play. The original production played at the Eugene O’Neil theatre, and starred John Lithgow as Gallimard, and BD Wong as the object of his affection, Song Liling. The role of Gallimard has been played by numerous star performers over the years, including Anthony Hopkins, Tony Randall, and John Rubinstein.

Clive Owen picks up the baton for the latest production, in which he must play a haunted individual, who’s in complete denial about his 20-year relationship with a man. The action of the play is designed to represent distorted bits of Gallimard’s memories of the affair. This means the entire show is distanced from reality, taking on a surrealistic quality. The new production features plenty of theatricality, dance elements, and elaborate traditional Chinese makeup and costumes. All of this lends to the play’s off-kilter sense of reality.

Julie Taymor is no stranger to sweeping theatricality, having directed the spectacular stage version of “The Lion King,” which earned Taymor the Tony Award for Best Play and just hit its 20th year on Broadway. Taymor is Broadway’s most famous contemporary director, having overseen productions such as “Grounded,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Juan Darian: A Carnival Mask,” and “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.” She has also directed numerous feature films, including “Frida,” “Titus,” “Across the Universe,” and an adaptation of her own production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Clive Owen is well known for his movie and TV roles, but he only made his Broadway debut two years ago with a starring role in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of “Old Times.” The Cort Theatre’s production of “M. Butterfly” ends Clive’s two-year absence from the stage. Clive is joined on stage by Jin Ha as Song Liling, a performance that marks Jin’s Broadway debut. Joining them in the cast are Clea Alsip as Renee, Murray Bartlett as Marc, Celeste Den as Comrade Chin, Michael Countryman as Toulon and Emmanuel Brown in swing roles.

This spectacular, high-end production of “M. Butterfly” features original Music Composition by renowned film score composer Elliot Goldenthal, who has scored numerous other Taymor productions. “M. Butterfly” also features Choreography by Ma Cong, Set Design by Paul Steinberg, Costume Design by Constance Hoffman, Lighting Design by Don Holder, and Sound Design by Will Pickens.

M. Butterfly” previews begin Oct.7 and officially opens Oct. 26 and runs through Dec. 17 at the Cort Theatre on Broadway. Find tickets here.