Fine Romance of Never Gonna Dance Ends Feb. 15 on Broadway

News   Fine Romance of Never Gonna Dance Ends Feb. 15 on Broadway
 
Never Gonna Dance, the Broadway musical based on the legendary RKO Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, "Swing Time," closes Feb. 15 at the Broadhurst Theatre after 44 previews and 84 regular performances.

Directed by Michael Greif and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, the musical began previews at the Broadhurst Oct. 27, 2003, and opened Dec. 4.

Despite "a positive-to-mixed reception from the critics," the show "has not been able to build an audience and survive the devastating industry-wide impact of the current record-breaking cold weather," producers said.

No cast album has been announced, and its future as a stock and amateur property isn't yet known.

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The musical was produced by Weissberger Theater Group/Jay Harris, Edgar Bronfman Jr., James Walsh, Ted Hartley/RKO Pictures and Harvey Weinstein. The company included Noah Racey and Nancy Lemenager (in the lead roles of Lucky and Penny), Karen Ziemba, Deidre Goodwin and Eugene Fleming.

The show reimagined uses for a treasure-chest of Jerome Kern songs with lyrics by Dorothy Fields and many others, pulled from various sources (including the RKO film). The libretto is by Jeffrey Hatcher.

The score included "Pick Yourself Up," "The Way You Look Tonight," "The Waltz in Swingtime," "A Fine Romance," "Never Gonna Dance," "I Won't Dance," "I'm Old Fashioned," "Dearly Beloved" and "Who," among others.

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To expand the score for the stage, the creators drew on Kern songs from a variety of projects and a range of lyricists, including Fields (who wrote the "Swing Time" songs with him), Ira Gershwin, Jimmy McHugh, Otto Harbach, P.G. Wodehouse and others. This might be the first time since 1933 that lyricist Bernard Dougall has been heard in a Broadway theatre. He was Otto Harbach's stepson and wrote the lyric to "I'll Be Hard to Handle" for the 1933 stage show, Roberta. The number was also heard in the film version, "Roberta," with Astaire and Rogers.

Kern (1885-1945) was that rare theatre composer who wrote musical comedies that had one foot in operetta and one in jazz (Very Good Eddie, Sitting Pretty, Sweet Adeline) and eventually helped launch the modern American musical drama, with Show Boat, in 1927.

Never Gonna Dance's source movie includes musical comedy treasures such as "The Way You Look Tonight," "A Fine Romance," "Never Gonna Dance" and "Pick Yourself Up." Among songs added and explored in rehearsals and previews were "Who" (from Sunny), "She Didn't Say Yes" (from The Cat and the Fiddle), "The Song Is You" (from Music in the Air), "I'd Be Hard to Handle" (the aforementioned Roberta), "Dearly Beloved" and "I'm Old Fashioned" (from the film "You Were Never Lovelier"), "I Won't Dance" (from the film "Roberta"), "You Couldn't Be Cuter" (from the film "The Joy of Living") and "Remind Me" (from the film "One Night in the Tropics"). Some changes in the songlist occurred as rehearsals and previews continued.

For Karen Ziemba, who plays Penny's pal, Mabel, the obscure "Shimmy With Me" (with a lyric by frequent Kern collaborator Wodehouse) was unearthed and jazzed up by musical director and vocal arranger Robert Billig, orchestrator Harold Wheeler and dance music arranger Zane Mark.

The lovers faced various obstacles in the show: Lucky's impending marriage, his vow to never dance (a promise made to impress his future father-in-law), Penny's wish for honesty and old-fashioned values, and a couple of Harlem dancers (Deidre Goodwin and Eugene Fleming) with whom they compete in a dance contest.

The busy Jerry Mitchell, the choreographer of Gypsy, The Full Monty and Hairspray, created the choreography — tap, partner and slinky jazz steps — for this new interpretation of the tale (which is still set during the Depression).

One of the musical's showpieces came early in the evening, when an 11-minute dance sequence offers Racey's Lucky being seduced by the city's beat as he arrives at the teeming Grand Central Station.

Mitchell is on the edge of becoming a Broadway director choreographer; he's expected to helm West Side Story on Broadway in the near future.

Racey and Lemenager star, but they are not yet stars in the traditional sense: Their work has been seen in the ensembles of Broadway and touring shows. Racey's recent Broadway gig was in the company of Thoroughly Modern Millie (he was also the associate choreographer) and Lemenager's credits include the tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Music of the Night, Broadway's recent Kiss Me, Kate, Dream, How to Succeed... and Guys and Dolls.

"They didn't hire ballroom dancers, they hired musical theatre dancers, people who love all variety of dancing — and also acting and all the things that go into the roles," Racey told Playbill On-Line.

"We were fortunate enough to do the workshop two years ago, and I think that was a big key in the casting," Lemenager said. "Jerry was pairing people up at the workshop audition, and when we got called back, it was the two of us in a room together. It's something you can't put your finger on: Why do people get married? Why do people connect? Why do people become friends? Why do we make good partners? From Day One we sort of moved alike. We felt the music similarly."

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Librettist Hatcher (Scotland Road, Three Viewings) told Playbill On-Line that the basic plot points from the 1936 film still exist in Never Gonna Dance: A vaudeville hoofer named Lucky comes to Manhattan to prove to his future father-in-law that he can make money in a legitimate business, but ends up dancing with a new partner, dance teacher Penny Carroll.

"It did strike me that we'd probably have to have a more caffeinated book than the original film has," Hatcher said. "It's charming, but certain plot things had to be bumped up. I thought the basic premise was a really great idea. I took the key characters and three or four of the key plot points and expanded them."

Ziemba, remembered for Contact, Steel Pier, Crazy for You, Chicago got to sing the lesser-known Kern tune, "I Got Love." Gerety crooned "The Song Is You" to Ziemba's Mabel in a scene set in an art-deco automat, the sight of which sent older theatregoers chattering about those obsolete and beloved dining venues.

The company also includes Peter Bartlett (as the dithery, effeminate dance-school owner, fashioned after RKO staple Eric Blore), David Pittu (as a Latin love interest of Penny's), Deborah Leamy (as the fiancé, Margaret), Philip LeStrange (as the father-in-law), Ron Orbach (as Maj. Bowes), with ensemble members Julio Agustin, Timothy J. Alex, Roxane Barlow, Nili Bassman, Julie Connors (getting applause for the William Ivey Long costume she wears, playing Maj. Bowes' assistant), Sally Mae Dunn, Jennifer Frankel, Jason Gillman, Greg Graham, Ashley Hull, Denis Jones, Kenya Unique Massey, Ipsita Paul, T. Oliver Reid, Kirby Ward, Tommar Wilson and Tony Yazbeck.

Designers are Robin Wagner (set), William Ivey Long (costumes), Paul Gallo (lighting), ACME Sound (sound).

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