Though he hasn't had a new play since 1989's Other People's Money, Jerry Sterner is now in a flurry of creative activity, first with the musical Topper, done at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, NY (June 20-July 6), and now with a new show in development, 1040, about -- of all things -- the U.S. income tax code.
Though an unlikely subject for a musical, reformation of the tax code fits right in with Sterner's specialty, since Money was about legal battling over a corporate takeover. According to a production spokesperson, 1040 looks at "politics as showbiz -- where senators, lobbyists, spin doctors, computer hackers, beltway bureaucrats, TV anchors, lawyers and accountants" match wits against a real estate mogul and his daughter.
Writing the songs is Jerry Bock, one of Broadway's legendary talents (She Loves Me, Fiddler On The Roof, The Apple Tree). It's his first project without former partner Sheldon Harnick. Songs in 1040 include "The 1040 Fanfare," "Income Is Income," "It's Time For A Change," "The Beltway Buzz," "Playing The Game," "Political Junkies," "Ladder Of Success" and "The Spin."
The show got its first read-through on Monday, Oct. 13, 6:00 PM, at The School of Theatre Musical Theatre Wing. Sterner was on hand to read stage directions, Bock to sing the songs, while the cast and crew sat around a table on the mainstage and read through the script. Both Bock and Sterner were in town for the six-week rehearsal process.
Producer Stuart Ostrow now brings 1040 Nov. 14, 15, 21, 22 & 23 as "a gypsy run-through workshop" at the Musical Theatre Lab at the University of Houston School Of Theatre. Bock and Sterner are in town with the workshop. Ostrow followed the same process with Doll and Coyote Goes Salmon Fishing. "Creativity always comes as a surprise to me," Ostrow said in a statement. "I can never count on it and dare not believe in it until it has happened. I have enough faith in the future to take risks. [The more dangerous and surprising the work, the better." According to Jim Williams of the University on School of Theatre, director Robert Wilson (The Black Rider) is currently looking at Doll as a future project.]
Set for the reading and Lab production are Mike Burstyn, Pippa Winslow and director Lou Jacob. Burstyn, who had his own television show in Israel and Holland, starred on Broadway in Ain't Broadway Grand and Off Broadway in The Rothschilds. Winslow, a Houston-based actress, was in the national tour of M. Butterfly. Director Jacob recently staged Hard Times at Off-Broadway's Pearl Theatre. Sarah Miles will choreograph. For information on the Lab production in Houston, at the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre, call (713) 743-2929. Though audiences are welcome, the Lab is hoping to keep the workshop small-scale and out of the eye of the press. Said spokesperson Williams, "We're trying to avoid what happened with Kiss Of The Spider Woman, where the critics saw it too early in the process. Here we want to get 1040 up on its feet, see what works and what doesn't, and bring it up to par."
No Broadway plans for 1040 have yet been announced. Production spokesperson Gary Springer said casting for the workshop would take place "in a couple of weeks." If all goes well, the first step after the run- through will be a regional Texas theatre, such as the Alley.
--By David Lefkowitz