Steve Lawrence was Tony Award nominated for playing the title character in the musical based on the best-selling 1941 novel by Budd Schulberg. The libretto is now revised by writer-director Robert Armin. Additional songs by composer-lyricist Ervin Drake have been added to what's being billed as a "chamber musical production" that "eliminates the dancing ensemble and numerous secondary characters."
Armin interpolates two Schulberg characters not in the original production, Rosalie Goldbaum and Billie Rand.
Performances play the West End Theatre in Manhattan. Producers and money people are expected to come take a look at the show. In the past, there has been a Tams Witmark licensed version of the musical, but the hope now is that the new version will supercede it and that Sammy will run a renewed life in stock, regional, and amateur markets — or even in a commercial New York City situation.
Leading the cast of 10 are Carl Anthony Tramon as Sammy Glick, Moira Stone as Kit Sargent, Larry Daggett as Al Manheim and Kristin McLaughlin as Laurette Harrington. Rounding out the cast are Darron Cardosa (Julian Blumberg), Jessica Luck (Rosalie and Billie), Jeffrey Farber (Sidney Fineman and Ben Osbourne), Steven Patterson (O'Brien and H.L. Harrington), Matthew-Lee Erlbach (Sheik) and Selby Brown (Lucky and Izzy).
The original production of What Makes Sammy Run? opened on Feb. 27, 1964 and played 540 performances at the old 54th Street Theatre, earning Tony nominations for Lawrence and conductor Lehman Engel. Also in the cast were Sally Ann Howes, Robert Alda and Bernice Massi. That production was directed by Abe Burrows, who took over the show during out-of-town previews in Philadelphia. Ervin Drake said in production notes: "We were deprived of staging a tougher show by the producer, Joe Cates, who felt it would not appeal to the audience of that time. Both the script and the songs were softened and Steve Lawrence's 'Sammy' was played fetchingly. The audiences loved him, but we felt the novel had been betrayed."
Director Robert Armin saw a stock production of the show starring Frank Gorshin in 1966 and the memory of it stayed with him In 2000, he approached Drake and Schulberg and convinced them to take a new look at the material.
With the writers' consent and active participation, Armin went back to the original novel and wrote a new script which more closely reflects the gritty spirit of the book. It was presented in concert in March 2003 in Hempstead, Long Island, as part of a Hofstra theatre conference.
Since the Long Island test, Drake has reinstated some lyrics (written pre-production) to the song "I See Something," that are "a bit more sophisticated than those used in the Broadway production," Armin told Playbill.com. There is also a new opening sequence "before Al starts telling the story, and some minor rewrites throughout the script."
Speaking for Schulberg and himself, Drake said in a statement, "In our opinion, the social climate has so changed over the years that audiences will take readily to the honesty of the new presentation, without our losing the fun of the original."
The limited run production has musical direction by Richard Danley and choreography by Jack Dyville. It plays daily (except Monday) Jan. 19-29.
Performances are at 8 PM except Sundays, when it plays 2:30 PM. The West End Theatre is located on the second floor of the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew at 263 West 86th Street in Manhattan.
Tickets can be purchased in advance from SmartTix.com or by calling (212) 868-4444. For more information about the show, visit www.whatmakessammyrun.net.
Billed as "a musical about Hollywood" and based on the 1941 novel by Budd Schulberg, the 1964 production had music and lyrics by Ervin Drake and book by Schulberg and his brother, Stuart Schulberg.
Steve Lawrence made his Broadway debut in the role of back-stabbing Hollywood hustler Sammy Glick, whose name made it into pop culture as being synonymous with soulless jerk.
A cast album was released: A mono CD is available at specialty stores and through www.steveandeydie.com, but the LP has been out of print for years. The stereo master is thought to be lost.
A brief 1965 Toronto production followed, starring Sal Mineo, with the original sets and costumes. There were several regional productions, as well, including a Los Angeles run starring Frank Gorshin in 1966, but the show is hardly in the national imagination.
Graciela Daniele made her Broadway debut in the show; she would later become a major Broadway director-choreographer.
The minimum size for the new cast is seven men and three women, though the company could also be filled out and made larger.
For the revised 2003 version, Drake eliminated several Hollywood "ballets" and the hoe-down number, "I Feel Humble," to make room for four new songs ("Two-Cent Encyclopedia," "I Can Trust Him," "Don't Bite The Hand That Feeds You" and the jazzy saloon number, "Mother of All The Blues"). He has revised the lyrics of two existing songs ("A Tender Spot" and "My Hometown") and included "Bachelor Gal," a defiant anthem for Kit Sargent, which was added during the Broadway run when Bernice Massi took over the role.
"The other characters now talk about Sammy in such a way that we understand the damage that Sammy does," Armin told Playbill.com in 2003. "In the original production Sammy was so charming that we never saw how destructive he could be."
The plot follows the rise of Sammy from newspaper copy boy to Hollywood executive after he "borrows" a script from another writer and gets a Hollywood contract.
Composer Drake's other Broadway musical was Her First Roman, a retelling of Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra, in 1968.