The Goodspeed Opera House has not given up on its plans to bring its production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's By Jeeves to New York. Last December, Playbill On-Line learned that Goodspeed executive director Michael Price and Andrew Lloyd Webber were looking at Broadway houses with an eye to opening Jeeves in time for the Tony deadline in May.
Goodspeed spokesperson Jennifer Wislocki told Playbill On-Line (Jan. 25) that the theatre had not abandoned hope but continues to closely monitor the availability of Broadway real estate. With Broadway so cramped, the entry of Jeeves may necessarily involve the closing of another show. Sources speculate one possible scenario could have the Webber musical moving into the Helen Hayes Theatre if the tuner Band in Berlin fails to strike gold.
The Goodspeed has also discussed with the Roundabout Theatre Company the possibility of including Jeeves in their season, said Wislocki. She added, however, that the talks did not go far and the prospect was unlikely.
Lloyd Webber et al may have been encouraged to act on By Jeeves by the thus-far tepid showing among new musicals this season. Footloose and Fosse received largely mixed-to-poor notices, leaving the Lincoln Center Theatre production of Parade as the leading contender for this year's Tony. Wislocki said she didn't know whether the paucity of Broadway musical offerings had influenced the Goodspeed's decision but admitted she "had heard talk along those lines."
Originally titled Jeeves, the musical opened in London in 1975 with music by Webber and book and lyrics by Alan Ayckbourn. Webber and Ayckbourn directed a revised version of the musical in the West End in summer 1996. The American premiere, again under Ayckbourn's direction, opened in November 1996 for an extended run at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT. There was much talk at the time of the show coming to Broadway, with reports of its imminent arrival in Time Square continuing through much of 1997. The Goodspeed show traveled to L.A. and Washington, D.C., but never made it to Broadway. Any Broadway production, said Wislocki, will attempt to preserve the Goodspeed cast, which featured John Scherer as Bertie and Richard Kline as Jeeves, along with Merwin Goldsmith (Sir Watkyn Bassett) and Emily Loesser (Stiffy Byng).
By Jeeves was choreographed by Sheila Carter, who also did the London production. The creative team includes Roger Glossop (sets), Louise Belson (costumes), Mick Hughes (lighting) and Richard Ryan (sound). Michael O'Flaherty serves as music director.
The plot of By Jeeves concerns Bertie Wooster's banjo recital in a church hall. When Jeeves, a lover of music, steals the instrument, Wooster must improvise with "a dizzying tale of romantic entanglements and mistaken identities involving his friends and their love interests."
Should By Jeeves come to Broadway, it would be the second Ayckbourn piece to reach New York this season, following Communicating Doors, which ended its Off-Broadway run Jan. 3, 1999.