A year ago, a new musical, Morning Star, announced plans to journey to Broadway. Capitalization was, of course, the major question, and a year later, the show is still in the fund-raising stage, though several benefits and workshops have occurred, and the show continues to drive towards a West Coast mounting followed by a Broadway opening.
Auditions for the show were held in San Diego Jan. 1997 for 25 roles (5 leads; 10 men, 10 woman ensemble) with rehearsals begining May 2 of that year.
May 9, Morning Star did a benefit showcase for the Universalist Unitarian Church of San Diego. This month (June 1998), the piece will do four benefit showcases, two at the Diversionary Playhouse in San Diego (June 22-23) to raise funds for Something Special Pantry, which provides food service for AIDS victims; and two at (and for) the Metropolitan Community Church, June 25-26.
Composer Terry E. Marler told Playbill On-Line (June 4) "We hope for more workshops in July, followed by a full stage version in the fall, depending on financing. We'll first see a mounting in San Diego or, more likely, Los Angeles, and our fingers are crossed for September. Also, we're in discussions with MCA to be our publisher, though things have slowed down a little what with Seagrams merging Universal/MCA with Polygram."
For months now, Morning Star has been targeting Broadway for Dec. 19. Marler hasn't completely given up on that date, though he now says it's "practically an impossibility. Spring 1999 is more likely; we're trailing right behind Easter Parade." On a happier note (or several notes), Marler says the size of the show's orchestra has doubled: from solo piano to piano with guitar. Currently cast in the show are five principals. Bill Bailey (Harry), Maralee Marquette (Celeste), James Roberts (Tom), Drew Martin. Another role is currently being recast (as of June 4).
Based on a 1972 comedy by lyricist/librettist James M. Beasley, Morning Star has a simple, old-fashioned plot. Celeste, a retired model, gets to choose between three men -- Tom, Dick or Harry -- with whom to spend her twilight years. Tom is a naive young man, Dick a live-wire swinger, Harry an aging millionaire. Songs dotting Celeste's search include Tom's "Closer To Love," Dick's "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes," and Harry's "Run My Love."
"This is not the `Phantom Of Argentina,'" Marler joked, "it's a traditional American musical, related to Kern, Guys And Dolls, Pajama Game..." Marler also noted that the character of Celeste had recently been changed from a former prostitute to a former model, as a nod to political correctness.
James M. Beasley wrote, produced or appeared in more than 489 productions, from playing Prospero in The Tempest in 1939 to a role in 1996's Mr. Justice Goes To Washington. Marler had collaborated with Beasley for 26 years until the former's death in July 1996. Together they wrote the musicals, Beyond The Rainbow, Jacqueline, Nana, Saint Joan, Cleopatra, Josephine and their own Hunchback Of Notre Dame.
T.C.W. (Travel Council Of The World) is the main producer of the piece so far, which estimates its seed money at $250,000 and tour capitalization at $2,750,000.
Marler also noted (June 4) that Morning Star isn't his only project. Projected for development in the fall are a musical version of Bell, Book & Candle, followed by three original scripts turned-musical -- The Flower Shoppe, Beyond the Rainbow and Twain, a costume musical biography of Samuel L. Clemens.
Asked to describe the essence of Morning Star, Marler told Playbill On-Line (Jan. 1997), "I could get allegorical..you know, how Celeste represents Broadway and old New York, and the three suitors are trying to save her...but really it's just a simple, fun show with some really good music in it."
--By David Lefkowitz