Producer Marty Bell told Playbill On-Line May 7 that "it might have been a mistake" to not cast bankable, marquee-value stars in the Tony Award nominated musical, A Class Act, and he and his producers are seeking new casting for some roles.
The tuner about real-life songwriter Ed Kleban and his friends who create musicals has Lonny Price (a theatre name from Merrily We Roll Along and Rags) as Kleban, but the show has struggled at the box office, playing to 35 percent of capacity in recent weeks. A Best Musical Tony Award nomination helps, but star names really help.
Adding stars to the mix "will put it on the radar screen," Bell said.
Bell said he still believes in the show, but the market is not kind to intimate, humane musicals with unknown titles, and recasting Price and Nancy Anderson (who leaves June 3 for another project) were the obvious first steps to be taken. He half-joked that he is going to "Weissler-ize" the show, borrowing the knack of producers Barry and Fran Weissler, who plug TV and pop stars into their properties (Grease!, Seussical).
Randy Graff, nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for playing Kleban's lifelong friend, will not be replaced in the show. "I feel like we sort of completed what we started out to do and it's a real good feeling," Bell said May 7. "We got the show in front of a Broadway audience. We'll get [Ed Kleban's] songs on national television [on the Tony Awards]..."
The show pulls Kleban's trunk songs to create a new score that tells the fictionalized story of the composer-lyricist's life. The character's major "want" is the show is to be heard and respected as both a composer and lyricist. His reputation before his 1987 death was based solely with his contribution of lyrics to A Chorus Line. With A Class Act, he has gained posthumous respect as a lyricist and a composer: He has been nominated for Best Score. The songs have not been heard on Broadway before.
A Class Act is also nominated for Best Book (Linda Kline and Lonny Price) and Best Orchestrations (Larry Hochman).
The show began previews Feb. 15 and opened March 11 at the Ambassador Theatre.