The new musical, Sweet Smell of Success, will waft into Chicago's historic Shubert Theatre Dec. 23-Jan. 27, 2002, prior to its Broadway debut in March 2002, the producers announced.
The new musical version of the darkly comic 1957 film of the same name is expected to be one of the hot tickets in the Windy City in the coming season. Audiences there were thrilled to get the first glimpse of the Broadway-bound mega-hit, The Producers, in early 2001, and are hungry to see potential history in the making. (Terrence McNally, John Kander and Fred Ebb's The Visit similarly plays the nonprofit Goodman Theatre in Chicago in October. Its creators hope that magic might happen and a Broadway future might transpire).
John Lithgow ("Third Rock From the Sun") and Brian d'Arcy James (Titanic) star as powerfully poisonous gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker and a desperate press agent, Sidney Falco, respectively, in the new tuner by librettist John Guare, composer Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist Craig Carnelia. The show and film are based on the novella by Ernest Lehman (Clifford Odets co-wrote the screenplay with Lehman).
Jack Noseworthy will also appear in the musical. The darkly urban — and urbane — show about a powerful New York columnist (played by Lithgow), and the weasel-like press agent (played by James) who does his bidding, was cheered in workshop presentations in August 2000. Clear Channel Entertainment (formerly SFX Theatrical Group), David Brown, Ernest Lehman and Marty Bell produced the workshop, which had July rehearsals and Aug. 1-2, 2000, presentations featuring Lithgow, James, Noseworthy (playing musician Dallas), Lauren Ward, Stacey Logan and a company of 16.
Broadway producers are Clear Channel, Brown, Lehman, Bell, Martin Richards/Roy Furman/Joan Cullman and Bob and Harvey Weinstein. *
The buzz was palpable after the summer 2000 workshop of the intermissionless show, with direction by Nicholas Hytner and choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, prompting many to question why the producers would delay a good thing.
The Broadway cast is expected to number 21.
The story involves a sycophantic press agent, Sidney Falco, who does the bidding of powerful Hunsecker, wreaking havoc on innocent people, including Hunsecker's sister and beau.
Sweet Smell offers a dark world full of nasty people who hide in the shadows of New York City's nightlife in the 1950s, a jungle where losers win and winners lose as jazz plays in the background.
"Without losing any of the edge of the piece," Bell previously said, "I think you'll find something at the end that's hopeful."
The movie, with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, is full of character twists and turns, and changes of fortune. Bell said Guare has provided new twists that enhance the experience.
The writers and Hytner had their first read of the first draft of the show Nov. 9-19, 1998. The project was initiated by the then-active Livent, run by Garth Drabinsky. SFX eventually took over Livent's properties when the empire fell into financial ruin. Former Livent senior creative producer Bell said Sweet Smell is the last of the projects initiated by Livent. The Livent machine conceived or nurtured an impressive list of shows, however, including Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime, Barrymore, Fosse and Seussical. A Livent-developed rethinking of Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey, with a book by Terrence McNally is in limbo, Bell said.
Composer Hamlisch is best known for his Tony- and Pulitzer winning musical classic, A Chorus Line. He also had a long running hit with They're Playing Our Song but has enjoyed less success with subsequent projects, including Smile and The Goodbye Girl.
Carnelia is perhaps best-known for his song, "Just a Housewife," from Working. He wrote Is There Life After High School?, which had a short Broadway run in the early 1980s but was recorded and has attained a cult following. He also wrote music and lyrics for the yet-to-be-produced Actor, Lawyer, Indian Chief, a musical about an aging TV cowboy, a movie star and the lawyer who gets caught between them.
Guare is the award-winning author of Six Degrees of Separation, The House of Blue Leaves, Four Baboons Adoring the Sun and the film "Atlantic City."
The original motion picture of Sweet Smell of Success was directed by Alexander Mackendrick and also starred Marty Milner, Sam Levene, Barbara Nichols, Susan Harrison, Joe Frisco and the Chico Hamilton Quintet.
The summer 2000 workshop also featured Joanna Glushak, Frank Vlastnik, Cleve Asbury, Michael McCormick, Bernard Dotson, Julio Augustin, Rachelle Rak, Kate Coffman, Mark Zimmerman, Colleen Hawks, Jamie Chandler-Toms, Roy Harcourt, Eric Michael Gillet, J.C. Montgomery, Shannon Lewis and Tobi Foster.