Despite a disappointingly short, 93-performance, Broadway run, Swinging On A Star will swing once more in its first post-NY production, at Arizona Theatre Company. Previews begin Nov. 30 for a Dec. 6 opening in Tucson. Michael Leeds, who wrote & directed the piece for the Great White Way, will also stage this southwest premiere.
Swinging On A Star - The Johnny Burke Musical features seven distinct musical vignettes, each with its own set of characters, time period and storyline. As the title implies, the show highlights the works of lyricist, Johnny Burke.
"When Mary Burke Kramer, Johnny's widow, asked me to write a musical about his work," Leeds was quoted as saying, "I started listening and was blown away by his variety and scope. Since Johnny wrote over a fifty year timespan, it seemed logical to use his career as a guidepost to take the audience on a musical journey through time."
Asked if there were any differences between the Broadway version and Leeds' current staging, spokesperson Hope Towner told Playbill On-Line, "He's changed the name of the dancers in the Radio Hall scene from the Burkettes to the Harmonics. I guess he likes the name better. Otherwise, I don't know of any changes."
Songs in the show run from "Ain't It A Shame About Mame" (1920's) to "Pennies From Heaven" (1930's) to "Polka Dots And Moonbeams" (1940's) to "The Road T o" (1950's). Other tunes include the famous "Misty" and "Moonlight Becomes You." Burke was the author of over 550 songs, including tunes for 42 films and four Broadway musicals. Michael Leeds was nominated for Drama Desk awards for director and choreographer for his work on Off-Broadway's musical revue, Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh. He's also directed for Playwrights Horizons, Steppenwolf and the Edinburgh Festival.
Kathleen Marshall, choreographer of the Broadway and Arizona Star, choreographed DuBarry Was A Lady and Call Me Madam for City Center's acclaimed "Encores!" staged-readings and has since been appointed artistic director of that series.
The cast of Swinging On A Star includes Sally Jo Bannow, Renee Morgan Brooks, Julia Lema, Paige Price, Matthew Shepard, Dennis Stowe, Joe Joyce and Bob Sorenson. Sorenson plays Bob Hope, and the Polish Gentleman -- the roles played on Broadway by Michael McGrath. Robert John Andrusko designed the set, Deborah Edelman the costumes, Jeff Ladman the sound.
Swinging On A Star runs through Dec. 21 at the Alice Holsclaw Theatre in the Temple of Music & Art on Scott Avenue in Tucson. It will then move -- as do all Arizona Theatre Company productions -- to the Herberger Center in Phoenix for a run Jan.4-Jan. 19, 1997. For tickets ($23-$32) and information call (520) 622-2823.
-- By David Lefkowitz