The 1978 musical about the New York Yiddish theatre community closed on the road before it got a chance with New York audiences.The Prince of Grand Street was the first musical for which Merrill provided music, lyrics and book , and his last Broadway-bound show if you don't count his contributions to Jule Styne's Broadway flop, The Red Shoes, for which he ghost-wrote lyrics.
Burstyn (Broadway's Ain't Broadway Grand and Barnum and the national tour of The Tale of Allergist's Wife) will play Nathan Rashumsky, "an arrogant and admired giant of the Yiddish stage, loosely based on the legendary Boris Thomashefsky," according to JRT. Rashumsky was originally played by Robert Preston in what would be his final stage role. Gene Saks was the original director.
Playing Leah, Nathan's love interest, is Brooke Sunny Moriber, a veteran of James Joyce's The Dead and My Life With Albertine. The cast also includes Ellen Horst, Kate Coffman-Lloyd, Mark Manley, Michael Raine, Kenneth Kantor, David Brummel and Richard E. Waits.
Songwriter Merrill is best known for the score to Carnival and the lyrics to Funny Girl. He was also an uncredited contributor to Hello, Dolly! A physically ailing Merrill committed suicide in 1998. His credits also include Take Me Along and New Girl in Town.
The JRT version will combine elements from both the Philadelphia and Boston productions and will be directed and adapted by Barry Kleinbort. JRT is working with the Merrill Estate to restore some of Merrill's original ideas and intentions to the show. Christopher Denny will be the musical director. "Despite a tuneful period score and an engaging glimpse into the crazy world of the Yiddish Theatre at the turn of the century, The Prince of Grand Street closed out of town after tryouts in Philadelphia and Boston," according to JRT's casting announcement. "It would have opened on Broadway 25 years ago this May."
The Prince of Grand Street is the final show in JRT's 2002-03 Musicals in Concert series, presenting lost or overlooked Jewish-themed works.
JRT, which is currently in its 29th year, is under the artistic direction of Ran Avni along with associate artistic director Warren Hoffman. Its mission is to produce theatre that details the Jewish experience in America in the English language.
The Prince of Grand Street plays at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th St. Shows are 8 PM May 29, 3 & 7 PM June 1 and 2 PM June 2.
Tickets are $35 and can be ordered by calling (917) 606 8200 or by visiting www.jrt.org.