Debbie Gravitte will reprise her Goodspeed Opera House belty- dame role of Nails Duquesne this fall, when Paper Mill in Millburn, NJ, stages a revised revival of Red, Hot and Blue!, Oct. 24-Dec. 2.
Also announced for the show's featured roles are Bruce Adler as Policy Pinkle and Michael Gruber as Fingers. The Cole Porter romp is directed and adapted by Michael Leeds, who also helmed the Oct. 13-Dec. 31, 2000, Goodspeed production in Connecticut.
Red, Hot and Blue! is the largely forgotten Cole Porter musical that gave us the alliterative, nonsensical and hyperbolic "It's De-Lovely." Leeds revised the 1936 Russel Crouse-Howard Lindsay script for the Goodspeed run. The tuner offered two of Porter's enduring hits: "It's De-Lovely" and "Ridin' High," to say nothing of the cabaret favorite, "Down in the Depths." Six numbers were cut from the original score and seven from the Porter catalog (including "Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye," "Just One of Those Things," "I've Got You Under My Skin") were interpolated.
Gravitte appeared in Broadway's Zorba and Jerome Robbins' Broadway. She plays the role created by Ethel Merman. Adler was Tony Award-nominated for playing impresario Bela Zangler in Crazy For You (also at Paper Mill). Gruber was Young Ben in Paper Mill's Follies and Don Lockwood in Paper Mill's Singin' in the Rain.
The Red, Hot and Blue! plot centers around Nails Duquesne (Gravitte), a former manicurist turned wealthy widow. She holds a lottery to help her lawyer, Bob Hale, find the lost love of his life. To assist in the search, Nails and her perennial debutantes arrange for the parole of several prison inmates. The leader, Policy Pinkle, is a sentimental jailbird who resents his release from luxurious prison life. The Senate Finance Committee eventually gets involved. The search for a missing heiress includes this plot point: Her identity can only be determined by a waffle iron mark on her behind. Also in the original score are "Down in the Depths," "The Ozarks Are Callin' Me Home," "Red, Hot and Blue," "What a Great Pair We'll Be," "Five Hundred Million," "You've Got Something," "Carry On" and "Ours."
At Goodspeed, this new "revisal" featured "Perennial Debutantes," "Down In the Depths," "Carry On," "Five Hundred Million," "It's De-Lovely," "Ridin' High," "The Ozarks Are Callin' Me Home," "Hymn to Hymen" and "Red, Hot and Blue" (all from the original score) plus interpolations "It Ain't Etiquette" from DuBarry Was a Lady, "You've Got That Thing"/"You Do Something to Me" from Fifty Million Frenchmen, "I'm Throwing a Ball Tonight" from Panama Hattie, "Just One of Those Things" from Leave it to Me, "I've Got You Under My Skin" from the film, "Born to Dance," "Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye" from Red, Hot and Blue! (cut out of town).
The musical director is Tom Helm, with sets by Ken Foy, costumes by Ann Hould-Ward and lighting by Ken Billington. Andy Blankenbuehler (Fosse, Saturday Night Fever) is choreographer. Director Leeds wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Swinging on a Star at Goodspeed at Chester, which transferred to the Goodspeed mainstage and then to Broadway, and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical.
For more information, call (973) 376-4343 or visit www.papermill.org.
— By Kenneth Jones