The title character is not Martha Washington or Martha Jefferson, but another well-known American woman — Martha Stewart, the diction-perfect do-it-all mogul known for her magazines, books, television shows, product line, good taste and jail time. Here, she's renamed "Martha Blake."
The reading cast, being seen at 7 PM Nov. 14-15 at the Producers' Club, includes Sally Wilfert (Assassins and Tom Sawyer) as domestic diva "Martha Blake" and Nora Mae Lyng (Forbidden Broadway and Into The Woods) as the working-class Polish mother who lovingly refers to her daughter as a "grandiose, opinionated, pain-in-the-ass." Ben Evans, Tim Douglas Jensen, Donei Hall, Pearl Sun, Sara Wordsworth, Jodi Darling, David Foley, Jr., Jonathan Monk and Christopher Scott Fuller are also featured. Robin D. Carus is the casting director for the show.
According to collaborators John G. Ekizian and James-Allen Ford, who are members of the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, "Martha! The Unauthorized Musical tells the life story of Martha Blake, who, with guile and glue gun rises from her working class Polish roots to become doyenne of American domesticity and one of the most successful businesswomen in American history. There's also a nasty bit about insider trading thrown into the mix to assure that Martha! is a tale of Shakespearean proportions with a strong second act."
New to the show's first act "is an impromptu parade that breaks out in Westport, Connecticut to celebrate Martha's marital separation and the annual arrival of the Beaujolais Nouveau in stores."
Act Two "features Martha embellishing her dream of having a retail product line and opting for the lucrative digs of K-mart. The not entirely moral Martha is nonetheless provided with moral support by Grace Kelly (who sings a power ballad a la Rodgers and Hammerstein) and Aunt Jemima…" Also in the show: "Martha goes undercover in order to thwart her husband's new relationship—disguised, naturally, as a topiary."
John G. Ekizian is lyricist and co-librettist and James-Allen Ford is composer and co-librettist. Ekizian and Ford met in the BMI Workshop.
The writers say this in production notes: "Though the tone of the show is decidedly light, the underlying theme of the show is 'the price of perfection' that Martha imposes on herself. The musical reminds us of the numerous obstacles that Martha overcame on the road to fame and near ruin. Throughout the show, Martha believes that her actions are justified and/or necessary due to others who she sees as trying to hold her down: the invalidating mother who wants her pretty daughter to marry well and keep out of the spotlight; the journalists and feminists who resent Martha's counterintuitive vision that many women will want to take pride in domestic activities; the gourmet mafia that resents Martha parlaying her good looks to grab the limelight; the members of the media and the business world who predict (incorrectly) the failure of each business venture; and various and sundry employees who Martha sees as riding on her fame. Martha ultimately realizes that she has been unable to accept the imperfection of others because she has been unable to accept imperfection in herself."
The Producers' Club is at 358 West 44th Street. For admission to the readings, members of the industry may call (917) 664-6627.
For more information, visit www.marthamusical.com.