Back in January 1996, Playbill On-Line reported that playwright/librettist Larry Gelbart -- a Tony-winner for City of Angels, and co-author of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum -- was hard at work preparing the book for a new musical, A Star Is Born. Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Company was hoping to produce the work, though an intended London staging got pushed off due to widely reported financial turbulence in the Webber empire.
In an interview with Playbill On-Line at the time, Gelbart said his stage musical uses Harold Arlen/Ira Gershwin songs from the 1954 Judy Garland film (most notably "The Man That Got Away"), plus other songs interpolated from Arlen's trunk.
Reached Sept. 10 this year, Gelbart said he was still "regrouping" on the project, which was adding extra songs by Cy Coleman and David Zippel (the City Of Angels duo). "The project got slowed up by the Really Useful explosion," said Gelbart, "but it's still going through. The book's been written for a year now, and the new songs are coming along." A 1998 London mounting is now the most strongly anticipated option, to be directed by Steven Pimlott, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
In 1996, Gelbart told Playbill On-Line that Lloyd Webber's people initially contacted him with the idea for A Star Is Born. Though he said the idea of writing a libretto around songs is difficult and "turns on its head Oscar Hammerstein's dictum that the score must serve the book," he said the notion of working with Arlen material was hard to resist. "What does the word 'worship' suggest to you?" Gelbart said, referring to the late composer of The Wizard of Oz, Jamaica, and other shows and films. "I would have loved to have worked with him with his full knowledge."
Those wishing a for a fuller knowledge of Gelbart will get their chance in February or March 1998, when Random House publishes his semi autobiographical book, "Laughing Matters," which includes several anecdotes of Gelbart's life in the theatre (Mastergate, Forum). It's only semi autobiographical because, Gelbart says, "I generally don't like using my life as an inkwell." As for other Gelbart projects, one of them is not the upcoming Meg Ryan film, City Of Angels, which shares nothing with the Gelbart musical but its title. "I'm trying to get them to change it," Gelbart told Playbill On-Line (Sept. 10). He also said no new Pseudolus has yet been selected to take over for David Alan Grier when he leaves Broadway's Forum in October.
Gelbart told Playbill On-Line (Jan. 1996) that he is a regular user of online services, and frequently visits the web newsgroup alt.mash.tv, where online users discuss the TV show "M*A*S*H," for which Gelbart was a writer.