Couples don't get unlikelier, but novelist Herman Wouk and country singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett have been collaborating on a new musical for more than five years. Titled Don't Stop The Carnival, the show had its world premiere in summer 1997 in an extended run at FL's Coconut Grove Playhouse.
At the time, production spokesperson Debbie Eyerdam told Playbill On-Line plans for the show outside Florida were still in the talking stage, with composer Buffett handling that directly.
Leading the 28-character cast was Tony Award-winner Michael Rupert (Sweet Charity, Falsettos), in the role of Norman Paperman. He's currently directing two Off-Broadway shows, including The Lunch Anxieties for Do-Gooder Productions.
Asked about future plans for Carnival, Rupert told Playbill On-Line (Nov. 21) "After Florida, Herman [Wouk] rewrote the script because the book needed some work, which everybody knew. About six weeks ago we gathered in NY and did a reading for producers and some other people. The book was much better... tightened up and clearer, though I think the reaction from most everybody was that it still needed work. That's the last I know of it. I doubt anything else will happen until that's addressed. I know Jimmy still wants the show to come to New York -- and when Jimmy Buffett gets something in his head, he does it."
Other cast members in Florida included Sandy Edgerton from Broadway's Crazy For You, Susan Dawn Carson from Broadway's Sunset Boulevard and Les Miserables, Josh Mostel from My Favorite Year, Texas Trilogy and many films, including Jesus Christ Superstar, Avery Sommers (as Sheila), LaParee Young (as Gov. Sanders), Megan McFarland (as Amy Ball). Carnival is based on Wouk's 1965 novel of the same name. He wrote the book, called "the bible to life on the Virgin Islands," when he and his family were living there to get away from New York. Years later, according to Coconut Grove marketing director Debbie Eyerdam, a young Jimmy Buffett was sailing around the Caribbean and noticed that everyone there had a copy of Wouk's novel. He fell in love the book, and contacted Wouk as a fan. The two hit it off, and their collaboration was directed and choreographed in Florida by David Bell, the associate artistic director of Atlanta's Alliance Theatre. Bell's best-known work at the Grove was as director of the hit musical, Matador.
The story of Don't Stop The Carnival (not to be confused with previous musicals Carnival, Carnival In Flanders or Carousel) concerns Norman Paperman, a middle-aged New York publicist, deciding to give up the rat race. Aided by a shrewd business friend, he acquires a small Caribbean resort but learns that life in paradise is more complex than he'd imagined.
Wouk's best-known novels include "The Winds Of War" and "War And Remembrance," as well as "The Caine Mutiny," which he adapted into the drama, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. Buffett's best known, tropic-tinged tunes include "Margaritaville," "Volcano" and "Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes."
-- By David Lefkowitz