The complete cast of the first Broadway revival of Bells Are Ringing has been announced, and Martin Moran, Robert Ari and Jeffrey Bean round out the featured roles.
As previously announced, Marc Kudisch will play the romantic lead — the playwright Jeff Moss — who falls for telephone answering-service operator Ella Peterson (played by Faith Prince). Beth Fowler (Beauty and the Beast) is Ella's cousin, Sue, who runs Susanswerphone and falls for a con man, Sandor, played by David Garrison (Titanic).
Moran (Titanic, Cabaret) plays a singing dentist named Kitchell, Ari (Laughter on the 23rd Floor) and Bean (Amadeus) play cops investigating Sandor's illegal bookie operation, which has a front as a classical music mail-order business.
Bells Are Ringing will be heard at the Plymouth Theatre beginning March 13, following an out-of-town engagement at Stamford, CT's Palace Theatre Feb. 20-25. Official opening on Broadway is April 12. Box office at the Plymouth opens Feb. 12.
The show was originally announced for the 1,752-seat Broadway Theatre (where Miss Saigon roosts to Jan. 28) but changed to the 1,079 Plymouth (where Jekyll & Hyde closed Jan. 7) to better suit the material: The 1956 Betty Comden-Adolph Green-Jule Styne musical has traditionally been recognized as a charmer rather than a spectacle. Tony Award-winner Prince (Guys and Dolls) stars as guileless operator Ella Peterson, who gets involved in the lives of her clients. Prince appeared on Broadway and regionally in James Joyce's The Dead, and starred in Little Me for the Roundabout Theatre Company.
Mitchell Maxwell, who is producing the Bells Are Ringing with Victoria Maxwell and Mark Balsam for Momentum Productions, Inc.; Robert Barandes; Richard Bernstein; and James L. Simon, told Playbill On-Line in fall 2000 that lyricist-bookwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green are "tweaking" the script, and working closely with director Tina Landau (Space, Floyd Collins, Dream True). Jeff Calhoun (Grease!, Annie Get Your Gun) choreographs.
When asked if songs from the creative team's other "New York shows" with Styne (the unlikely-for-revival Subways Are For Sleeping or Do Re-Mi, for example) might be plundered to augment the score, Maxwell said "trunk songs" — including "It's Better Than a Dream," from the 1960 movie of Bells — have been considered, but he expected the original score to be heard. The show is not a revised revival.
Capitalization is $5.8 million. The company also includes Julio Agustin, Joanne Baum, David Brummel, Caitlin Carter, Lawrence Clayton, James Hadley, Roy Harcourt, Stacey Harris, Joan Hess, Emily Hsu, Shane Kirkpatrick, Greg Reuter, Josh Rhodes, Alice Rietveld, Darren Ritchie, Janelle Anne Robinson, Linda Romoff and Kelly Sullivan.
"What attracted me to the show was the fact that we had a spectacular talent in Tina Landau, who has a contemporary take on the show," said Mitchell Maxwell.
The show is still set in 1956, but the scenic elements will be "fabulous minimalism," a trend of the time. Playwright Jeff Moss' apartment, for example, is expected to be made up of a city skyline, a sculpture and a lima-bean-shaped coffee table, with the audience using its imagination to fill in spaces. The idea recalls the recent minimalist 1950s Damn Yankees revival, but Bells will take the visual idea even further, said Maxwell.
There will be a plexiglass skyline that glitters and rises and falls, changing the perspective depending on the setting — whether an Upper East Side penthouse or the basement of a brownstone, where "Susanswerphone" has its headquarters. The scenic design underlines the tension between the haves and have-nots, Maxwell said.
Early in the show, working-class Ella Peterson, falls in love with playwright Moss but hasn't met him: She only knows his voice and his foibles because she is his telephone answering-service operator. When they do meet, she passes herself off as Melisande Scott, a smarter version of herself.
"Bells Are Ringing, in its purest form, is 'Cinderella,' it's about a working person aspiring and not thinking she is worthy," said Maxwell, who said Landau's take on the show made him more excited about the project (he'd been trying to get the rights for almost 10 years). When Ella also masquerades as "mom" on the phone, giving advice to Jeff Moss until she has to spring into action and aid him in person, it's not much different from the millions of people using the internet and pretending to be what they are not, he said.
"She hides behind her switchboard," he said. "What makes it contemporary [is that] so many people hide behind the internet."
Theatre fans know the score and the film version starring Judy Holiday (who created the role on stage), but, said Maxwell, "It's not a title like Guys and Dolls, it's not one of the titles that's done and done and done, so the theatrephiles will be really attracted and then there are the people who will discover it as a 'new' show."
Prince is a Tony Award winner for Guys and Dolls and played Belle in the Roundabout revival of Little Me.
The 1956 tuner was written with Holliday in mind. She was the longtime pal of Comden and Green. The trio performed sketch comedy in the late 1930s, billed as The Revuers.
A songwriting dentist, a neighbor who can cha-cha and a host of oddball clients are also part of the musical comedy mix.
The libretto and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and score by Jule Styne offer a breezy, satiric, but sweetly affectionate view of then modern New York City, where subway rides turn friendly ("Hello, Hello There!"), walks in the park become reasons for singing ("Just in Time") and celebrity soirees can make a working-class girl feel inferior ("The Party's Over").
The score also includes "Mu-Cha-Cha," "I Met a Girl," "It's a Simple Little System," "Salzburg," "I'm Going Back," "Long Before I Knew You," "Is It a Crime?," "It's a Perfect Relationship" and "The Midas Touch." Some stage versions also have used the song "It's Better Than a Dream," which appeared in the 1960 film and is listed in a late-run Playbill of the original production.
Actress Prince has done much musical work in New York City in recent seasons, from taking over for Blair Brown in James Joyce's The Dead to following Donna Murphy in The King and I. She's best known for her Tony-winning Adelaide in the Guys and Dolls revival. She recently released an album of her latest cabaret show, Leap of Faith.
The original production of Bells Are Ringing ran 924 performances, under the direction of Jerome Robbins. Robbins and Bob Fosse choreographed. Judy Holliday took home the Best Actress (Musical) Tony Award and Sydney Chaplin won the Best Featured Actor (Musical) Tony, playing Jeff Moss.
Tickets are $50-$85 and are currently on sale by phone at (212) 239 6200. The Plymouth is at 236 W. 45th Street.