One flew over the cuckoo's nest

Adapted from Ken Kesey’s novel by Dale Wasserman

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest premiered in 1963, one year after Ken Kesey’s bestselling novel of the same name was published. Dale Wasserman’s stage adaptation, with music by Teiji Ito, made its Broadway premiere, running through 1964. Since then, the play has had two revivals : first off-Broadway in 1971, then as a Broadway production in 2001 with Gary Sinise as McMurphy. A film version released in 1975 was based on the novel, but not on the play.


The 1964 Broadway production starred Kirk Douglas as McMurphy, Gene Wilder as Billy Bibbit, and Ed Ames as Chief Bromden. Douglas retained the rights to make a movie version of One flew over the cuckoo’s nest for a decade, but was unable to find a studio willing to make it with him. Eventually, he gave the rights to his son Michael Douglas, who succeeded in getting the movie produced. At that time, Kirk Douglas was deemed too old for the role of McMurphy, and the role was given to Jack Nicholson.


The 2001 Broadway revival won the Tony Award that year for Best Play Revival. It was a Steppenwolf Theater production, directed by Terry Kinney and starred Gary Sinise, Amy Morton, Tim Sampson, Eric Johner, and Ross Lehman.


The Playhouse Theatre, was the stage for the first London production of One flew over the cuckoo’s nest in April 1988 - the play was brought to the London stage by Cuckoo Productions, three young entrepreneurs, Diane Hilton, Karin Parnaby and Judy Kershaw. They raised £100,000 in 24 hours to bring the play to the London theatre.