Zev Buffman is reaching back into his past for the centerpiece of Ruth Eckerd Hall's 2012-13 Broadway season, announced on Tuesday. The veteran Broadway impresario, in his second month as CEO of the Clearwater performing arts center, is producing four Agatha Christie mysteries — Three Blind Mice, Yellow Iris, Butter in a Lordly Dish and Personal Call — to be previewed at the 485-seat Capitol Theatre in downtown Clearwater in November before a three-week engagement at the 1,150-seat Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale.
The links to Buffman's past are twofold. He originally produced the quartet of Christie mysteries, adapted for the stage by Judith Walcutt and David Ossman, in 2009 as part of the International Mystery Writers' Festival at the RiverPark Center in Owensboro, Ky., where he was CEO until last year.
The Parker Playhouse looms large in the Buffman biography. It's where he engineered the stage debut of Elizabeth Taylor in a 1981 production of The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman that went on to Broadway.
The four Christie mysteries, with a total run time of about 160 minutes, including intermission, were all first produced as radio plays by the BBC. Three Blind Mice, which debuted in 1947 in honor of Queen Mary's 80th birthday, spawned the world's longest-running play, The Mousetrap.
The cast will have 12 principals playing multiple roles and eight extras. Performers include members of the Firesign Theatre, the surrealistic comedy troupe that got its start in the 1960s and is legendary for albums such as I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus.
Ruth Eckerd also announced a conventional Broadway lineup to play its 2,100-seat main hall, including Billy Elliot, A Chorus Line, Hair, West Side Story and Cirque Dreams. Buffman has made it a goal to triple the hall's Broadway subscription base. "It's at 1,000 right now, and that is unacceptable," he said. "We should be at 3,000 at the end of this year, and then 4,000. That's where we belong."