Sunday, March 31, 2013

On B'way, Everything New Is Old and Vice Versa

Leslie Caron in the 1958 film version of Gigi
Three new shows with Broadway plans aren't exactly new. Two are old properties with refashioned books and one was originally produced off-Broadway. The two really old shows are Can-Can and Gigi, coincidentally both set in an idealized, romantic Paris, and the previous off-Broadway production is Always, Patsy Cline.

Can-Can opened on Broadway in 1953, launched the career of Gwen Verdon, featured a scintillating score by Cole Porter and ran for 892 performances. (BTW, I appeared in a production at the Barn Playhouse in Jeffersonville, PA as a policeman and a drunk customer. I was actually a stagehand and they needed an extra body in two scenes.) The 1960 film version starred Frank Sinatra, Shirley MacLaine, Juliet Prowse, and Maurice Chevalier and was probably most famous for an onset visit from Soviet premiere Nikita Krushcev who proclaimed its dance-hall girls symbols of Western decadence. The book by Abe Burrows seemed perfectly fine to me, but apparently, it needs to be updated. Joel Fields and David Lee have a new book which was used in a Pasadena Playhouse production in 2007. This version will be getting a reading sometime in early July in NYC in anticipation of a spring 2014 Broadway opening.

Meanwhile, Gigi, another Francophile musical property is also getting a reworking from the Alan Jay Lerner original 1958 screenplay and the 1973 Broadway production with a book by Lerner. This production surprisingly won the Tony for Best Original Score by Lerner and Frederick Loewe even though it had been used in the movies already. The movie swept the Oscars in 1958, winning nine statuettes against such stiff competition as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Defiant Ones, Auntie Mame, and Separate Tables. The new adaptation of the story of a young girl becoming a courtesan is by British screen and TV writer Heidi Thomas (Call the Midwife). A development reading is set for this month in NYC with Eric Scaeffer (Follies) directing. Plans are for a possible Broadway production in 2013-14.

Always, Patsy Cline has more definite plans. American Idol finalst Crystal Bowersox will play the legendary country singer in a Broadway production starting performance in July at a theater TBA. Let's hope she's livelier than that other American Idol zombie Katherine McPhee on Smash. Emmy nominee Annette O'Toole co-stars as one of Cline's biggest fans who serves as narrator. Always ran Off-Broadway in 1997.

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