Billed as "a musical about Hollywood" and based on the 1941 novel by Budd Schulberg, the original show has music and lyrics by Ervin Drake and book by Schulberg and his brother, Stuart Schulberg. Songs not in the original run (including new songs by Drake) will be heard in the revision presented by Hofstra Cultural Center and Hofstra USA Productions, March 26-29, in Nassau County, Long Island, a suburb of New York City.
Robert Armin penned the revised book in collaboration with Schulberg. Bob Spiotto directs the professional staged concert. Musical direction is by Frank DeMonaco. The concert features piano and voice.
Steve Lawrence made his Broadway debut in the role of back-stabbing Hollywood hustler Sammy Glick, whose name made it into pop culture as being synonymous with soulless jerk. Lawrence was Tony Award-nominated (as was musical director Lehman Engel), and a cast album was released: A mono CD is available at specialty stores and through www.steveandeydie.com, but the LP has been out of print for years. The stereo master is thought to be lost.
A brief 1965 Toronto production followed, starring Sal Mineo, with the original sets and costumes. There were several regional productions, as well, including a Los Angeles run starring Frank Gorshin in 1966, but the show is hardly in the national imagination.
The Broadway run lasted 540 performances. It lost money, though it was a big seller when it first opened. Sally Ann Howes, Robert Alda and Barry Newman were in the cast. Joe Cates produced. Graciela Daniele made her Broadway debut in the show; she would later become a major Broadway director-choreographer. In 1966, Robert Armin saw Frank Gorshin play Sammy Glick in L.A., and the performance stuck with Armin. That staging, the West Coast premiere at the Valley Music Theatre in Woodland Hills, CA, inspired Armin to re address the show more than 30 years later.
The new cast includes Adam Rosante as Sammy Glick, John Gabriel as Al Manheim, Susan Bigelow as Kit Sargent, Barbara Fasano as Laurette Harrington, Stuart Zagnit as Sidney Fineman & Ben Osborne, Jerry Maggio as Julian Blumberg, Cristina Doikos as Rosalie Goldbaum & Billie Rand, Kevin Franznick as H.L. Harrington & O'Brien, Marc Eliot as Sheik and Robert Anthony Jones as Lucky & Izzy.
In the past, there has been a Tams Witmark licensed version of the musical, but the hope now is that the new version will supercede it and the show will find a renewed life in stock, regional, and amateur markets — or even in New York City.
The March concert in Long Island is a world premiere unveiling of the revised property.
In February 2000, New York director Robert Armin contacted Budd Schulberg and songwriter Ervin Drake and proposed that they take a fresh look at their musical, What Makes Sammy Run? The result is a newly revised script that attempts to restore much of the dramatic power of Schulberg's 1941 novel. Some secondary characters are eliminated and so is the entire dancing ensemble, Armin told Playbill On-Line. Two young women from the original novel, Rosalie Goldbaum and Billie Rand, have been interpolated, "adding a poignancy missing from the 1964 version," Armin said.
"The revised show is tougher and closer to the novel that first appeared in 1941," Drake said in production notes. "We were deprived of staging a tougher show by the producer, Joe Cates, who felt it would not appeal to the audience of that time. Both the script and the songs were softened and Steve Lawrence's 'Sammy' was played fetchingly. The audiences loved him, but we felt the novel had been betrayed. In our opinion, the social climate has so changed over the years that audiences will take readily to the honesty of the new presentation, without our losing the fun of the original."
The minimum size for the new cast is seven men and three women, though the company could also be filled out and made larger.
For the revised version, Drake has eliminated several Hollywood "ballets" and the hoe-down number, "I Feel Humble," to make room for four new songs ("Two-Cent Encyclopedia," "I Can Trust Him," "Don't Bite The Hand That Feeds You" and the jazzy saloon number, "Mother of All The Blues"). He has revised the lyrics of two existing songs ("A Tender Spot" and "My Hometown") and included "Bachelor Gal," a defiant anthem for Kit Sargent, which was added during the Broadway run when Bernice Massi took over the role.
"The other characters now talk about Sammy in such a way that we understand the damage that Sammy does," Armin told Playbill On-Line. "In the original production Sammy was so charming that we never saw how destructive he could be."
The plot follows the rise of Sammy from newspaper copy boy to Hollywood executive after he "borrows" a script from another writer and gets a Hollywood contract.
Performances of the concert version of the revised book and score are 8 PM March 26-28 and 2 and 8 PM March 29. Tickets are $23. For information, call (516) 463-6644 or visit www.whatmakessammyrun.net.
Composer Drake's other Broadway musical was Her First Roman, a retelling of Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra, in 1968.
The revisal is part of a comprehensive four-day Hofstra Cultural Center Conference, The Broadway Musical, 1920-2020. For details, visit hofstra.edu/culture.