Gip Hoppe's farcical Jackie, An American Life is readying for an Off-Broadway opening at the end of Feb. 1997.
According to producer Mark Schwartz, the comic look at the life of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis will go into the Promenade Theatre, which currently houses Jon Marans' drama, Old Wicked Songs. This comes as a surprise to spokespeople for Songs, since they've heard nothing of the change and have no plans to post a closing notice for Marans' play, which hits its 150th performance Dec. 31. (For more information on that anniversary, please read Playbill On-Line's story, Wicked Songs Turns Six Months Old.)
It also comes as something of a surprise to the show's author, who told Playbill On-Line that if Wicked Songs is still going strong, he figures Jackie will have to wait until a theatre becomes available. "There's a real traffic jam on and Off-Broadway," Hoppe said. "And there are only four or five theatres big enough, which means over 350 seats."
Produced by Louise Westergaard, Bob Meyrowitz, Mark Schwartz and "Jackie International," Jackie stars Lane Burgess as the First Lady best known for her hats and husbands.
Jackie ran for four months at Boston's Wilbur Theatre, closing only to make way for the tour of Master Class -- the irony being that Class' Maria Callas was Ari Onassis' main squeeze before he set his sights on the world's most glamorous widow. Jackie O died in 1994. "Jackie is treated pristinely," producer Schwartz told Playbill On-Line, "and very straight. It's the people around her who are all zany. We've got 8 actors playing 100 roles, with 180 costumes and 86 wigs. Oh, and 12 foot puppets -- it's hysterical." (According to Hoppe, some puppets actually reach 16 feet.)
Schwartz, who is also producing Dream on Broadway this season, told Ward Morehouse of the Post, "All I can say [about Jackie] is that anyone who's anybody in her life, from her father, `Black Jack' Bouvier, to Jack Kennedy to JFK Jr. is in it. There's even a Nixon-Kennedy debate scene."
Hoppe said the the first version of Jackie was staged at the Academy Playhouse in Orleans, MA (near his Cape Cod home) back in 1992. The piece then transferred to Harvard's Hasty Pudding club . "I was looking to do a biography," Hoppe said, "but I wanted it to be large, expansive. So many of these things are one-person shows. It's not a spoof but it is non-realistic and broad, with a lot of comic elements."
Hoppe said he's doing some rewriting and adding new scenes. And the puppets? "Sometimes puppets can portray an attitude better than a live actor."
Rehearsals for Jackie - An American Life are to begin in late January. The show will again feature the Wilbur cast when it opens (perhaps) at the Promenade Theatre at West 76th Street. Oh, and to date, Hoppe has not been contacted by any Kennedys, living or otherwise.
--By David Lefkowitz