Busy Rando Exits They All Laughed!, Ashley to Helm New Gershwin Tuner in CT

News   Busy Rando Exits They All Laughed!, Ashley to Helm New Gershwin Tuner in CT They All Laughed!, the new Gershwin-tinged musical beginning its world premiere engagement at Goodspeed Opera House June 29, has lost director John Rando due to his workload, and welcomes Christopher Ashley at the helm.

They All Laughed!, the new Gershwin-tinged musical beginning its world premiere engagement at Goodspeed Opera House June 29, has lost director John Rando due to his workload, and welcomes Christopher Ashley at the helm.

"It was a big surprise," said Goodspeed executive producer Michael Price, but Rando's Urinetown and A Thousand Clowns projects are pulling his focus. Rando told Goodspeed he was withdrawing from the new musical one week before rehearsals were to begin.

The withdrawal is not about artistic issues, Price said, it's about Rando's suddenly busy schedule. Rando and Ashley are meeting about the show, since Ashley is now inheriting Rando's design team and cast, and because Rando has been collaborating with The All Laughed! book writer Joe DiPietro for the past year and a half.

"Chris rearranged his schedule so he could join us," Price said. "John is spending a lot of time with Chris right now. Chris is an old Goodspeed hand and an old friend of ours here, and there's a lot of shorthand with the stage management team."

Ashley, currently represented on Broadway with The Rocky Horror Show, has staged Redhead and Lucky in the Rain for Goodspeed. Rando has a current Broadway hit with Neil Simon's The Dinner Party and his staging of the musical, Urinetown, is moving to Broadway come summer. His revival staging of Herb Gardner's A Thousand Clowns, starring Tom Selleck, is in tryouts in North Carolina and Chicago prior to a July 4 first preview on Broadway. Goodspeed Musicals, operating out of the historic opera house in East Haddam, CT, will offer the world premiere of librettist DiPietro's new Gershwin-punctuated musical, They All Laughed!, in association with producer Jonathan Pollard, Dena Hammerstein and Bernie Kukoff (who are also responsible for producing DiPietro's Off-Broadway hits I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change and Over The River And Through The Woods).

The cast of They All Laughed, inspired by the old Gershwin hit, Oh, Kay!, includes James Ludwig, Tobi Foster, Michael McGrath, Mark Lotito, Dennis Kelly, Donna English, Mary Beth Piel, Amanda Watkins and Diane J. Findlay. Also performing are Kevin Crewell, Matthew Farver, Lori Ann Ferreri, Kate Fisher, Jessica Hartman, Ethan Jones, Mike McGowan, Karina Michaels, Laurie Mitchell and Lauren Schutter.

The new tuner has a new book by DiPietro and a score pulled from the George and Ira Gershwin catalog. It plays June 29 Sept. 22 at Goodspeed. Joey McKneely (Smokey Joe's Cafe) choreographs.

Designers are John Lee Beatty (set), Martin Pakledinaz (costumes) and Ken Billington (lighting).

They All Laughed! is drawn from the 1926 Gershwin-Guy Bolton-P.G. Wodehouse tuner, Oh, Kay!, which gave the world, "Someone to Watch Over Me," "Dear Little Girl" and "Do, Do, Do."

Producer Pollard previously said this is "the first regional step" toward its commercial future.

The new show's score includes "He Loves and She Loves," "The Sweet and Low Down," "Heaven on Earth," "Clap Yo' Hands," "Let's Kiss and Make Up," "My Cousin in Milwaukee" and the title song.

"Joe was approached by the Gershwin family to do this project," Pollard told Playbill On-Line Nov. 10, 2000. "He created a Kaufmanesque farce — a screwball comedy with glorious music. What is wonderful about this project is that it's not a huge musical, it's a musical with three sets very much in the tradition of the old-fashioned glorious musicals. It's not a 'mega musical.'"

Pollard said DiPietro took plots points and some songs from Oh, Kay! and reinvented a script. It's still set in the 1920s, during Prohibition.

They All Laughed! was first performed in a series of industry readings in January 2000 with a cast that included Roger Bart, Laura Benanti, Kevin Chamberlain, Donna English, Tovah Feldshuh and Mary Beth Piel.

It's not the first time the songs of George and Ira Gershwin have been plundered for "new" shows: My One and Only, Crazy For You and The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm were all new Broadway constructions using old songs. Neil Simon has once worked on an abandoned Gershwin infused musical called A Foggy Day.

— By Kenneth Jones