The quirky show, which closed after nine performances in 1964, now has a cult following thanks largely to its original cast album. In 1995, an album preserving a benefit-concert cast was also released.
The new staging opens Feb. 21, after previews, as a guest production at the Matrix Theatre. Carole Black produces, Michael Michetti directs (and also adapted the three-act work into two acts), Larry Sousa choreographs and Darryl Archibald is musical director. The company totals 18. The set is said to be inspired by Andy Warhol.
Misty Cotton will play Nurse Apple, one of the apparently sane characters in a mad town where a corrupt Mayoress (played by Broadway character actress Ruth Williamson) creates a fake miracle to bring in tourists. When the local asylum is unlocked, the tourists mix in with the "cookies" and the town council can't tell one from the other. A hero named Hapgood (played by John Bisom) challenges the Mayoress and falls for Apple. In 1964, the show took shots at conformity, mental health, war, politics and other subjects, ending up a rueful and somewhat absurdist satire of the modern world.
Composer-lyricist Sondheim's score includes "There Won't Be Trumpets," "With So Little to be Sure Of," "Me and My Town," "Miracle Song," "A Parade in Town," "See What It Gets You," "Everybody Says Don't" and the title song, among others. Cotton is a 2002 Ovation Award-winner for Lead Actress in a Musical (Side Show). Her credits include Ellen in Miss Saigon on Broadway and Eponine in the national tour of Les Misérables. Williamson's Broadway credits include Eulalie Shinn in The Music Man, Gen. Cartwright in Guys and Dolls; Epic Proportions and Little Me.
In the original, Hapgood was played by Harry Guardino, Apple by Lee Remick and the Mayoress by Angela Lansbury.
Designers are Evan Bartoletti (set); Steven Young (lighting); Rebecca McCabe (costume). Richard B. Warsk is production supervisor.
The cast also includes Ira Denmark, Joe Hart, Jay Willick, Peggy Billo, Andrew Boyle, Lizz Carter, Jennie Fahn, Daniel Gibson, Chil Kong, Roy Leake, Jr. Matthew McCray, Randi Pareira, Sierra A. R. Rein, Peter Sham and Virginia Weber.
The Matrix Theatre is at 7657 Melrose Avenue. Performances continue to May 11, 2003. Tickets range $15-$38. For information, call (818) 788-5659.
Visit the Anyone Can Whistle website at www.anyonecanwhistle.com.