King of Hearts, the failed Broadway musical about an American soldier who encounters an unusual French village during World War I, opens anew Nov. 15 in a reconsideration by Goodspeed Musicals, the not-for-profit committed to holding musicals up to the light.
Based on the 1966 film, "Le Roi de Couer," the 1978 Broadway musical features a score by Peter Link (music) and Jacob Brackman (lyrics). The unique musical flopped on Broadway in 1978 after its book by Steve Tesich was altered, but the show has a cult following, thanks to its cast album (there have also been regional productions).
This revival production uses the script as the authors — the late librettist Tesich and songwriters Link and Jacob — first intended, before other "doctors" were brought in. Gabriel Barre, who helmed Goodspeed's productions of Sweeney Todd, Finian's Rainbow, Dorian and Summer of '42,, directs the staging, with choreography by Peggy Hickey.
The musical follows American soldier Johnny Able as he tries to save a small French village during World War I. Joe Farrell (Goodspeed's A Little Night Music) plays Johnny. Performances continue to Dec. 15.
Joseph Stein replaced Steve Tesich in the process leading to Broadway. Songwriters Brackman and Link have been in residence at Goodspeed re-addressing their show. *
The work had an initial viewing in the Tesich version at the Westport Country Playhouse in 1977, directed by A.J. Antoon. Ron Field would stage the Broadway bow. At $1.8 million, it was briefly the biggest money loser in Broadway history, according to historian Steven Suskin, in "More Opening Nights on Broadway."
In the 1979 Tony Awards, Millicent Martin was nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. It would be the show's only nom.
The Goodspeed cast includes Vanessa Lemonides (Jeunefille), Joe Vincent (Genevieve), Pamela Burrell (Duchess), Casper Roos (Duke), Melissa Hart (Madame Madeleine), Gabor Morea (The Barber), Robert Aronson (The Bishop) and Gordon Joseph Weiss (Demosthenes), with Katie Adams, Mark Brey, Kevin Browning, Sally Mae Dunn, Bob Jester, Kevin Loreque, Rose McGuire, Kilty Reidy, Greg Roderick Tom Souhrada, and Leslie Stevens.
Michael O'Flaherty is musical director. Designers are James Youmans (sets), Pamela Scofield (costumes) and Tim Hunter (lighting). Darko Tresnjak was originally announced to direct the work, but was pulled away by an impending production at Huntington Theatre Company.
Coinciding with King of Hearts is a run of Stephen Schwartz's The Baker's Wife, also set in a French village, on the Goodspeed's developmental stage, the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT, Nov. 7-Dec. 1. Joseph Stein penned the book.
Tickets range $22-$47. For information, call (860) 873 8668 or visit www.goodspeed.org.
Goodspeed Musicals, in East Haddam, CT, "dedicated to the preservation and advancement of musical theatre," is the recipient of two Tony Awards for its achievements. In addition to its on stage productions, Goodspeed also maintains the Scherer Library of Musical Theatre. Annie and Man of La Mancha had formative stagings there prior to international success.
— By Kenneth Jones