Native Australian cabaret singer David Campbell plays the lead in one of Stephen Sondheim's earliest works, the musical Saturday Night, which gets its New York premiere at NY's Second Stage, more than four decades after it was written. Previews start Jan. 20, 2000, for a Feb. 14, 2000 opening and a run through March 26, 2000.
As reported by Theatrical Index, Campbell's costars will include Lauren Ward (1776, Violet) and Natascia A. Diaz (a Chicago Jeff Award winner for her supporting role in a recent touring production of West Side Story). Other performers include Andrea Burns, Donald Corren, Christopher Fitzgerald, Kirk McDonald, Michael Pemberton, Joey Sorge, Clarke Thorell, Rachel Ulanet, Frank Vlastnik, Michael Benjamin Washington, David A. White and Greg Zola. Designing the show will be Derek McLane (set), Catherine Zuber (costumes), Donald Holder (lighting) and Scott Lehrer (sound).
Kathleen Marshall (Encores!' Babes in Arms) will direct and choreograph. Rob Fisher will be the musical director for Saturday Night, and original Jonathan Tunick orchestrations will be used for the show.
Castmember Campbell has sung at Joe's Pub and at such special events as a Symphony Space anniversary symposium for South Pacific. Further casting is expected in the next few weeks, according to Second Stage marketing associate, David Henderson.
Written in 1954, Saturday Night was meant to be Sondheim's initial foray on Broadway, and it predates West Side Story, the show that first brought him international acclaim. Saturday Night was not staged for many years, even though backers had committed to the project. This is because tragedy struck before the show could open: Sondheim's friend and producer, Lemuel Ayers, died suddenly of leukemia in 1955, and the show was shelved for 42 years. Sondheim refused to allow the show to be produced and it wasn't, until it received its London premiere in 1997 at the Bridewell Theatre.
Historically, Saturday Night was the audition piece that Sondheim used when he sought work with Leonard Bernstein on a stage adaptation of James M. Cain's "Serenade." Bernstein left that project, however, and "Serenade" became a film instead. By then, Sondheim was positioned to exploit the need for a lyricist when he later learned that Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins were looking to adapt Romeo and Juliet, the show that became West Side Story.
"It's a very youthful musical comedy type score with traces of what was to come from Sondheim, " said publicist Jim Byk. "There are traces of the dissonances and tricky word play that would later become evident when he came into his own with Company in 1970." The show, which has a book by Julius J. Epstein, tells of a young man in the late 1920s who thinks fame and fortune await across the Brooklyn Bridge. He discovers, however, that real riches lie closer to home.
As reported earlier on Playbill On-Line, a surprising number of songs from Saturday Night have surfaced on Sondheim compilation recordings. Songs include "What More Do I Need," "Isn't It?" and the title song, all of which can be heard on the "A Stephen Sondheim Evening" recording. "Love's a Bond," "All for You," and "In the Movies" can be heard on the "Unsung Sondheim" CD. "So Many People" can be heard on the 1973 "Sondheim" compilation and in the cast album for the Off-Broadway show Marry Me a Little, which also includes "A Moment With You."
The U.S. premiere of Saturday Night was presented by the Pegasus Players, which have a reputation for bringing new glory to lesser-known Sondheim shows (The Frogs, Pacific Overtures, Merrily We Roll Along, Anyone Can Whistle, Assassins, and Passion). The Chicago production ran this summer and was extended by popular demand.
The original cast recording for Saturday Night was released in 1998 on First Night (UK) and in the US release on RCA.
For further information on Stephen Sondheim, visit sondheim.com or read Meryle Secrest's biography, "Stephen Sondheim."
In other Second Stage news, Though Jar The Floor couldn't further extend its run at off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre this past summer, the show may indeed return, albeit to a different -- and possibly Broadway -- venue.
Second Stage marketing associate David Henderson told Playbill On-Line lead producers Liz McCann and Roy Gabay are currently juggling between Broadway and off-Broadway for the remount, which could come as early as February 2000. As of late December, plans were still not ready to be announced, but sources close to the producers said the project is moving forward and likely to happen.
Jar the Floor, the latest by playwright Cheryl L. West (Holiday Heart), had an extended run at Second Stage July 28-Sept. 12, officially opening there Aug. 16. The play was directed by Marion McClinton and featured Regina Taylor, Irma P. Hall, Lynne Thigpen, Linda Powell and Welker White who are expected to be on hand for the commercial run.
Author West has a history at Second Stage, which previously mounted her Before It Hits Home. Though Jar the Floor has been around for several years and received many regional productions (including seven featuring Hall), the summer production marked its New York premiere. West reportedly made substantial revisions to the script in preparation for the Second Stage production.
The play looks at four generations of African-American women who gather to celebrate the family's great grandmother's 90th birthday. The connections between the various mothers and daughters are exposed when the youngest member of the clan arrives with an unexpected guest.
Taylor, a playwright herself, has appeared Off-Broadway in The Illusion and A Map of the World. Her own plays include Escape from Paradise. On television, she starred in the well-regarded series "I'll Fly Away."
Thigpen is a stage veteran, winning a Tony nomination for the musical Tintypes and the award itself for her portrayal of a Jewish, black professional experiencing a mid-life meltdown in Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter. Her many film credits include "The Paper" and "Tootsie."
McClinton is best known for his extensive work with playwright August Wilson. He most recently directed Wilson's Jitney at several theatres across the nation and will stage the show again at Second Stage in mid-April 2000, after a run at the Mark Taper Forum, which is co- producing.
Jitney, Wilson's earliest play, was written in 1979. The work is part of Wilson's decade-by-decade chronicle of the twentieth century. It takes place in 1977. Set in the Hill district of Pittsburgh, where Wilson grew up, the play centers around a gypsy (or jitney) cab station. Through the conflict of impending demolition and the reunion of a jitney driver and his estranged son recently released from prison, Wilson presents a group of workers unified by their pride, humor and hardship.
In the tradition of past Wilson plays, Jitney has criss-crossed the nation, received several productions at theatres such as Rochester's Geva Theatre, Chicago's Goodman and Baltimore's Center Stage. Its next stop is L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum, where it will open Feb. 3, 2000.
After Jitney chugs out of Second Stage, late June 2000 will see Edward Albee's Tiny Alice, staged by Mark Lamos. As reported in August, producers Elizabeth McCann and Daryl Roth were hoping to revive the complex 1965 drama on Broadway last season. They had a star, Richard Thomas, who appeared in the show's hit revival at CT's Hartford Stage in 1998. (No word on whether he will be on hand for the Second Stage staging.) However, plans stalled when the producers had trouble finding a suitable female lead.
McCann and Roth were the team who mounted Off-Broadway's Albee hit Three Tall Women. Tiny Alice ended its run at Hartford Stage June 21, 1998. The production, directed by the company's former artistic director Lamos, opened May 23, 1998.
Hartford Stage's obsession with the play is not new. The theatre staged the work in 1972. Indeed, after Shakespeare, Albee is the most produced playwright in Hartford Stage's 34-year history. Lamos collected a seasoned cast for the production, headed by Thomas, who played the lead role of Brother Julian, a man of the church seduced by Alice's sexuality and wealth. Also in the cast were Gerry Bamman (Off-Broadway's Nixon's Nixon and Bedfellows), John Michael Higgins (Broadway's La Bete), Tom Lacy (the Drama Dept.'s production of Kingdom of Earth), and Sharon Scruggs (Floyd Collins).
The original production of Tiny Alice was presented on Broadway in December 1965, with John Gielgud and Irene Worth under the direction of Alan Schneider.
Albee has been enjoying a renaissance since 1994 when his Three Tall Woman won him his third Pulitzer Prize. His A Delicate Balance got a Tony-winning revival on Broadway; his Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf had an award-winning London remounting in 1996.
-- By David Lefkowitz