Don't be alarmed by the headline; Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre hasn't chosen wholesale slaughter as its theme for 1997-98. Instead, their mix of comedy, music and drama will include the Gershwin-based musical, Crazy For You, the tragic London musical Blood Brothers, and Christopher Sergel's stage adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. Also on tap for the five-play season will be The Goodbye Girl and Ken Ludwig's Moon Over Buffalo. The season's a double-dipper for Ken Ludwig, since he also wrote the libretto for Crazy.
Each show will run 56 performances -- five more than in previous years to accommodate subscription seating. "Each year our subscription audience grows," said executive director Bernard Havard of the coming slate of plays, titled "A Season To Experience."
Here's the line-up:
The Goodbye Girl (Sept. 9-Oct. 26)
With a book by Neil Simon (based on his screenplay for the Oscar-winning, non-musical film of the same title), music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by David Zippel, this romantic comedy tells of the prickly relationship between an eccentric actor and a single mom and ex-dancer. Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason starred in Herbert Ross' 1977 film; Martin Short and Bernadette Peters starred in the Broadway musical. Bruce Lumpkin directs the Walnut production.
Crazy For You (Nov. 11, 1997-Jan. 4, 1998)
Boy meets girl out west and they put on a show -- with such tunes as "Embraceable You," "Someone To Watch Over Me" and "Slap Dat Bass." Winner of the a Best Musical Tony, the show opened on Broadway Feb. 19, 1992 and will here be directed by Charles Abbott.
Moon Over Buffalo (Jan. 13-March 1, 1998)
Carol Burnett and Philip Bosco starred on Broadway in this Ludwig farce about an on-the-outs theatre troupe. This staging will be a co-production with Fayetteville, PA's Totem Pole Playhouse, whose artistic director, Carl Schurr, directs. Wil Love (Walnut Street's Cabaret stars in the Bosco role. To Kill A Mockingbird (March 10-April 26, 1998)
Based on Harper Lee's Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, as well as Robert Mulligan's 1962 film masterpiece, it's the story of Atticus Finch who defends black man Tom Robinson against the charge of rape in a small southern town. This staging is a co-production with both NJ's George Street Playhouse and Miami's Coconut Grove Playhouse. Gregory Hurst, artistic director of NJ's George Street Theatre, directs the drama, which stars local favorite Will Stutts as Finch.
Blood Brothers (May 5-June 21, 1998)
Willy Russell wrote the book, music and lyrics for this Broadway hit, which is still running on London's West End. Fraternal twins separated at birth come to a mutual tragic end, despite being raised in different places and classes. British director Bob Carlton, who previously brought Lust to Walnut Street, will stage the show.
For subscription information to "A Season To Experience" at the Walnut Street, call (215) 925-6885.
--By David Lefkowitz