Divorce was still a sticky subject for war-weary theatregoers hungry for optimism in 1946.
Judith Jarosz suggests that's why Ira Gershwin and Arthur Schwartz's marriage-minded musical, Park Avenue, flopped in 1946. But Jarosz and partner David Fuller, co-producing artistic directors of off-off Broadway's Theater Ten Ten, are dusting off the score and book by George S. Kaufman and Nunnally Johnson to see if melody, sophistication and cynicism can play today. Theater Ten Ten presents a May 6 preview and a May 7 opening of the rare Park Avenue, thought to be the first professional revival of the 72-performance tuner about rich folk and their disposable marriages. Shows continue to June 6.
Theater Ten Ten musical director Allan Greene reconstructed the score from piano-vocal selections and handled the musical arrangements, to be played on a grand piano in the Equity company's 99-seat house in a hall at 1010 Park Avenue. His assistant musical director is Jason Wynn. The Gershwin Trust assisted in the process and a script was recovered from the Kaufman family, with archival help from the original producer's papers in the Max Gordon Collection at Princeton University.
Founded in 1955 with support form Vincent Sardi and Mary Martin, Theater Ten Ten revives Shakespeare and modern works, rediscovers musicals (like the George S. Kaufman show, Hollywood Pinafore) and presents special projects and world premieres.
One of the joys of Park Avenue, Jarosz told Playbill On-Line, was slaking the thirst people seem to have for melody in a time when modern musical theatre writers seem to be less traditional. The Park Avenue score is obscure, but did produce a song embraced by cabaret singers: "Goodbye to All That." Other songs include: Tomorrow is the Time," "For the Life of Me," "The Dew Was on the Rose," "There's Nothing Like Marriage for People," "Don't Be a Woman If You Can," "Sweet Nevada," "There's No Holding Me," "My Son-in-Law," "Hope for the Best," "The Land of Opportunitee" and more. The cast includes Jarosz, as the show's much-married Sybil, whose daughter falls in love with a man not in the social register, Steve Aron, Timothy Scott Bennett, Eric Bettelheim, Campbell Bridges, Samuel Bruce Campbell, Christine Fenno, Shira Flam, Patti McClure, Trevor Richardson, Richard Rowan, Jennifer Stafford, Kathryn Strock, Luke Walrath, William Walters, Glenn White, Cristiane Young.
Co-producing artistic director Fuller directs, Barbra Brandt choreographs, Doug Filomena is lighting designer and sets and costumes are by Marisa Timperman.
The original production starred Leonora Corbett, Mary Wickes, Arthur Margetson, David Wayne, Raymond Walburn, Ruth Matteson. In his book "Lyrics on Several Occasions," lyricist Gershwin wrote, "There were two reasons for our flopping: (A) charm wasn't enough to sustain the second act; (B) evidently divorce is a ticklish subject to be funny about for an entire show." He related the story a friend of Arthur Schwartz who saw the show in its Boston tryout. She cried through most of it. "She had recently been divorced and she just couldn't take it," Gershwin wrote.
Theater Ten Ten, a nonprofit Equity tier-one showcase company, is at 1010 Park Avenue between 84th and 85th streets in Manhattan. Tickets are $12-$15. Call (212) 288-3246 for reservations.
-- By Kenneth Jones