An Act to Catch: Saturday Night at Grossinger's, the Musical, Begins FL Run

News   An Act to Catch: Saturday Night at Grossinger's, the Musical, Begins FL Run
 
The story of Grossinger's, the famed Catskills resort, is told in song in the Florida premiere of Saturday Night at Grossinger's, beginning Dec. 7 in Ft. Lauderdale.

Barbara Minkus, who recently played Molly Picon in Off-Broadway's Picon Pie, will take on another showbiz role in the musical. She plays Jennie Grossinger, the Jewish-American hotelier who lured stars to her Catskills resort in the so-called Borscht Belt.

The musical by Stephen Cole, Claibe Richardson and Ronny Graham will be presented at Stage Door Theater's 26th Street Theatre, 1444 N.E. 26th St., Wilton Manors in Ft. Lauderdale.

Previews begin Dec. 7 at 2 PM. Opening is Jan. 7, 2006, which happens to be a Saturday night.

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Directed and choreographed by Ray Roderick, the Equity production co-stars Barry Pearl, who with Minkus, comes from a successful Los Angeles production of the show. He plays Sheldon, the "tummler," or jack-of-all-trades and master of ceremonies. The Florida cast also includes Diana D'Ambrosio (as daughter Elaine Grossinger), Wayne LeGette (as son Paul Grossinger), Louis Silvers (as husband Harry Grossinger) and Jay Stuart (as Papa Grossinger, Jennie's father). "Recounting the fabled story of Jennie Grossinger, an uneducated immigrant who saw her small boarding house rise to the heights as the greatest resort on the East Coast" the new commercial Florida production is a reworked version of the musical once called Grossinger's, which was produced in 1997 starring Gavin McLeod. Since then, Stephen Cole (who wrote the libretto and co-wrote the lyrics with the late Ronny Graham) and Claibe Richardson re-worked the show to further enhance the story of the rise of the legendary hotel which, from the 1920s-1980s, "became the jewel of the Catskills and the summer Saturday night performance home of the world's greatest entertainers."

Originally conceived by Rita Lakin and Doris Silverton, who brought the idea to Graham and Richardson, the work has now morphed into a rollicking six character musical comedy that won solid reviews when it opened in 2005 at L.A.'s Theatre West. It was extended twice, and ran for four months.

This version of the musical by Stephen Cole (librettist and co-lyricist), the late Ronny Graham (co-lyricist) and composer Claibe Richardson is much different than an earlier Broadway-sized version produced by Casa Manana, in 1997, starring Gavin McLeod. For one thing, the cast is smaller. Cole and Richardson worked in recent years to make the show leaner and more theatrical.

The show includes the last song that Richardson and Cole wrote together before the composer died in early 2003. Ironically titled "Dead on Her Feet," it's a comedy song about a woman who dies during the conga contest at Grossinger's. A Richardson melody from the show's trunk was also reinvented by Cole in recent months to create a new counterpoint duet, called "No Time," Cole told Playbill.com.

This new version had a non-Equity staging in summer 2003 at Broadhollow Theatre on Long Island; the L.A. Theatre West staging represented its professional debut. Further refinements are being made by director Roderick and Cole in Florida rehearsals.

"This definitely represents a big revision even since 2003," lyricist-librettist Cole previously told Playbill.com.

The six-character musical comedy takes place in the early '60s when the hotel was at its height. In the show, it's a snowy winter Saturday night and the stars who are booked — Judy Garland, Alan King and the Nicholas Brothers — are stuck in a snowdrift, and Jennie and her family are forced to entertain the guests until the stars can arrive. Cole said, "Jennie decides to put on a show about how she made Grossinger's the great resort it was. As the improvised musical progresses, Jennie learns some hard truths about herself."

Cole explained, "[The show] is loosely based on the rise of the Catskill resort as seen through the eyes of Jennie Grossinger, the pioneer woman who made it all happen. As the opening lyric says, 'Here where facts are mixed with fictions, come embrace the contradictions...' We take major liberties with Jennie's life but the show is sanctioned and endorsed by Jennie's only living child, Elaine Grossinger Etess."

The open-ended commercial run of Saturday Night at Grossinger's is produced by Lawrence S. Toppall, Martin Markinson, Richard Willis, and Patricia Greenwald.

John Mezzio is musical director. Orchestrations are by Lanny Meyers.

Cole's works for the stage include the book and lyrics for the musicals After the Fair, The Night of the Hunter, Casper and Dodsworth. Richardson scored The Grass Harp, Lola and Night of the Hunter. Actor-writer Graham wrote lyrics for Bravo Giovanni, New Faces of 1952, and penned the screenplays to "Spaceballs" and "To Be or Not to Be." Graham died in 1999.

From Broadway performer to writer/director/choreographer, Ray Roderick was associate director of Madison Square Garden's A Christmas Carol and associate director of the recent Broadway revival of The Music Man for director-choreographer Susan Stroman. He later directed for the North American tour. Roderick co-wrote, directed and choreographed I Love a Piano, which won him a Carbonell nomination. He is currently co-writing and directing Are We There Yet? A Family Survival Guide with Jim Hindman and John Glaudini. He directed the short-lived Off-Broadway musical, The Ark.

For ticket or information, call (954) 344-7765, or visit stagedoortheatre.com.

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