Borle, Ebersole, Kritzer, Morrison Test Going Hollywood Musical in Reading; Mitchell Helms

News   Borle, Ebersole, Kritzer, Morrison Test Going Hollywood Musical in Reading; Mitchell Helms Two-time Tony Award-winner Christine Ebersole plays the choice role of Tinseltown gossip columnist Helen Hobart in a May 6 reading of the musical Going Hollywood, under the direction of Jerry Mitchell.
Christine Ebersole
Christine Ebersole

Ebersole — who won her Tonys for Grey Gardens and the revival of 42nd Street — played the part of May, one of the show's love interests, in an early presentation of the project more than 20 years ago. She's now graduated to sexy scene-stealer Helen.

Going Hollywood is a musical version of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's 1930 Broadway comedy, Once in a Lifetime, a spoof of Hollywood. The musical is by Tony Award winner David Zippel (lyricist and co-librettist), Joe Leonardo (co-librettist) and Jonathan Sheffer (composer).

As previously reported, Hal Luftig (Legally Blonde, Thoroughly Modern Millie) and The Old Globe are producing a 29-hour reading of the show that is culminating in the private industry presentation May 6 in Manhattan. John McDaniel (Taboo, Brooklyn, Annie Get Your Gun) is music director.

The May 6 reading cast also includes Christian Borle (Legally Blonde) as George, Matthew Morrison (South Pacific) as Jerry, Leslie Kritzer (A Catered Affair) as May, Josephine Rose Roberts as Susan Walker, Richard Kind (Bounce, New York City Opera's Candide) as Glogauer, Julie Halston as Glogauer's secretary Miss Leighton, Todd Weeks as the neglected Broadway playwright Lawrence Vail, plus Paul Canaan, Marya Grandy, Luke Grooms, Rod Harrelson, Sandra Joseph, Kevin Pariseau, Terita Redd, Noah Weisberg, Cortney Wolfson.

* Brimming with showbiz madcaps in the movie business at the time when talkies were dawning, the musical was tested in two readings and a 1983 workshop, but a full production never materialized.

The hot Broadway director-choreographer Mitchell (Legally Blonde, and a Tony winner for his La Cage aux Folles choreography) was in the chorus of the original Going Hollywood workshop in 1983. He always liked the material — and now he has the clout to help realize it. Mitchell is helming the new reading of the dusted-off, revised, restructured musical.

Zippel penned lyrics for Broadway's City of Angels (Tony Award, Best Musical and Best Score, among others), The Goodbye Girl and The Woman in White. His many songwriting projects include lyrics for Disney's "Mulan" and "Hercules," and the new stage musicals Pamela's First Musical and Princesses.

Leonardo is a respected writer-director known for his work in Chicago and nationally.

Sheffer is a TV, film and theatre composer and busy classical conductor who founded the Eos Orchestra. His opera, Blood on the Dining Room Floor, received the Richard Rodgers Production Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was produced Off-Broadway in 2000. His first musical, Ladies in Waiting, written with Patricia Resnick and Alan Poul, was produced in Chicago in 1981.

Zippel told Playbill.com that the writers wanted to "create a musical that has the wink and charm and wit of Kaufman and Hart."

The original play by Kaufman and Hart focuses on three ex-vaudevillians (Jerry, May and George) who travel to Hollywood to give elocution lessons to silent-screen stars who are nervous about the impending changeover to talkies. There, they encounter out-of-work playwrights (one was played by Kaufman himself in 1930) who are hoping to make it big in pictures, and oversized Hollywood types, including a gossip columnist named Helen Hobart and a studio chief named Glogauer.

Luftig and Zippel said that Tony Award-winning director Jack O'Brien, Mitchell's collaborator on The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Hairspray, is Going Hollywood's "guardian angel," and that Mitchell is the project's director and choreographer.

Zippel said the earlier script and score have been "restructured a bit" and that a song previously cut has been re-inserted. Expect a tuneful, bouyant book musical comedy with a mid-sized cast.

Mitchell was Tony-nominated for his choreography for Legally Blonde, Hairspray, Never Gonna Dance, The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He's currently seen as co-host of the Bravo reality series "Step It Up and Dance." His Broadway choreography credits also include Imaginary Friends, The Rocky Horror Show, Gypsy (additional choreography 2003), and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

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Opening in September 1930, the play Once in a Lifetime ran 406 performances at Music Box. Grant Mills, Jean Dixon and Hugh O'Connell played Jerry, May and George, respectively. A 1978 Broadway revival played 85 performances at Circle in the Square, starring Treat Williams (Jerry), Deborah May (May) and John Lithgow (George).

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