Opening the 1998-99 season of New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse will be the Jule Styne & Stephen Sondheim classic, Gypsy, with a star soon to be announced. The last major Gypsy revival was on Broadway with Tyne Daly.
According to spokesperson Dennis Dougherty, Mark Waldrop co-writer and director of When Pigs Fly will direct Gypsy. He also staged Three of Hearts, with Faith Prince and Mary Rodgers, at Rainbow and Stars.
As of June 23, the top candidate for the NJ mounting continues to be Betty Buckley. "There's been some discussion," Buckley told Playbill On Line at the Tony Awards Nominees Brunch, held at Sardi's restaurant on May 13. The actress, who previously starred as Mama Rose in a 1992 production of Gypsy at the Southern Arizona Light Opera Company, is nominated for her work in last fall's Triumph of Love.
Weeks ago, Paper Mill spokesman Dennis Dougherty confirmed the theatre had been speaking with Buckley. He added that the company was in contact with several actresses concerning the Stephen Sondheim/Jule Styne classic, including Patti LuPone, star of the recently shuttered Broadway production of David Mamet's The Old Neighborhood. According to Jim Byk (of the Richard Kornberg office, which also represents Paper Mill), reached June 22, LuPone had another, non-theatre commitment that has taken her out of the running.
Adding fuel to Buckley's candidacy are reports that she'll be recording a two-disk set of Gypsy for JAY Records. Gypsy, tentatively scheduled to run at Paper Mill Sept. 9-Oct 25, features a set by resident designer Michael Anania. Following Gypsy will be a new version (Nov. 4-Dec. 13) of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by David Levy & Leslie Eberhard (book & lyrics) with music by Phil Hall. Starring will be Richard White, Marc Kudisch (High Society), Glory Crampton (Off-Broadway's Carnival) and Judy McLane. This adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson thriller is not connected to the Frank Wildhorn currently at Broadway's Plymouth Theatre. Philip Wm. McKinley directs.
After that (tentatively) it's (Jan. 6-Feb. 14, 1999) George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart's The Man Who Came To Dinner. The comedy about a misery-inducing houseguest is by the same authors as Once In A Lifetime and You Can't Take It With You. According to a Paper Mill spokesperson, the theatre has been waiting for a particular star to commit to Dinner, though the performer's recent illness may keep him out of the production, forcing Paper Mill to either cancel or recast.
Then comes (Feb. 24-Apr. 3, 1999) Charlotte Bronte's Wuthering Heights adapted for the stage by Paper Mill artistic director, Robert Johanson.
Then it's La Cage aux Folles (Apr. 14-May 30), starring Lee Roy Reams as Albin. Robert Johanson directs. Harvey Fierstein wrote the book, and rumor has it composer Jerry Herman is "tinkering a bit" with La Cage for this engagement. Jerry Mitchell (Paper Mill's Follies) is choreographing.
Announced to finish the season (June 9-July 18, 1999) is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The musical is still under consideration but may be scrapped, due to the current, Broadway-bound Osmond Brothers tour of the Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice musical.
Robert Johanson is artistic director of the Paper Mill Playhouse, the official state theatre of New Jersey. Musicals previously revived at the Millburn theatre include South Pacific, Show Boat and Gigi; newer works include Chess, Phantom, Jane Eyre and Comfortable Shoes.
For tickets and information on Paper Mill Playhouse shows, call (973) 379-3636.
As for this season at Paper Mill, Follies finished its acclaimed run May 31 (with talks continuing for a possible Broadway transfer). Ending the Paper Mill season is The Will Rogers Follies, the 1991 Tony winner for best musical. It's a fanciful version of the life story of Rogers, one of America's most popular entertainer/comedians. Peter Stone wrote the book, Betty Comden & Adolph Green the lyrics, Cy Coleman the score. (June 10-July 26, 1999 opening June 12).
Rehearsals begin in May for The Will Rogers Follies, directed by Mark S. Hoebee and choreographed by D. J. Salisbury. Recently finished with the State Fair national tour, John Davidson plays the lead, with Ann Crumb (Anna Karenina, Aspects of Love) playing Betty Blake. The Madcap Mutts, who appeared on Broadway in the show, will repeat their canine cavorting. Also in the cast are Pamela Jordan (Ziegfeld's Favorite) and Dennis Kelly (Clem).