An Equity staged reading of The Book of Merman, a new play about the life and career of the late musical comedy star Ethel Merman, is currently rehearsing for private presentations to industry producers and insiders.
The cast is headed by three-time Tony nominee Carolee Carmello as Merman, two-time Tony nominee and Emmy winner Penny Fuller (playing Ethel’s best friend, Benay Venuta), Max von Essen, Burke Moses (playing Merman's third husband, Bob Six), and Jim Newman (playing Merman's second husband, Robert Levitt) with Jeremy Benton, Richard Bell, Larry Daggett, Alex Hopkins, Rick Roemer, and Lauri Landry.
The play is written and directed by Drama Desk winner Richard Sabellico and stage-managed by Adolpho Blaire. The play is based upon Brian Kellow’s biography Ethel Merman: A Life and features music from the Golden Age of Broadway, including songs from Gypsy, Annie Get Your Gun, Anything Goes, Call Me Madam, Panama Hattie, and more.
The Book of Merman, according to press notes, “sets out to reacquaint today’s audiences with not only Ethel’s larger than life persona, but also with the era which Merman dominated; the golden age of musical theatre. Although that era, the 30s through the 60s, may be a dim memory to the current theatregoing public, this new play illuminates the vitality and originality of a singular talent as well as a burgeoning artform that’s indigenous to America. The Book of Merman showcases not only the public persona but also the private one—a lady vulnerable and riddled with self doubt.”
The reading hopes to attract investors for a planned 2017 workshop in NYC as well as a possible regional debut in the 2017-18 season.