Industry people are checking into The Wayside Inn, a musical version of A.R. Gurney's 1975 play, The Wayside Motor Inn, in private Manhattan readings this month.
Gurney himself attended the first of two reading performances July 26 (another is slated for July 30) and is said to be pleased with the reworking of his piece, which was a snapshot of the American middle class seen through the frame of folks who register at a motel. Dialogue overlapped rhythmically in the original play, much like the scenes in Gurney's The Dining Room bled into one another.
Collaborators Steven Lutvak (composer and co-lyricist) and Ron McGee (librettist and co-lyricist) consolidated aspects of the original script, with Gurney's blessing, turning the humane, five-couple show into a musical with three central families. Gurney, a famous chronicler of the white American middle class in such plays as The Cocktail Hour and Love Letters, allowed Lutvak and McGee to make one couple African American and one couple gay, reflecting aspects of society less conspicuously exposed 25 years ago. The show is set in the present.
Jason Moore directs the readings, which feature Chuck Cooper and Tina Fabrique (as a married couple), Emily Skinner, John Hickok and Eric Millegan (as mother, father and son, combining two stories from the play) and Jose Llana and Frank Vlastnik (as the gay couple).
The play's "complicated structure," according to Lutvak, is reflected in the new musical. Though some characters never meet, they share duets, and the themes and rhythms join despite the walls between the disparate people. Lutvak, a singer, composer and cabaret songwriter, was commissioned to explore the play as a musical in April 1996, and later took on librettist McGee as a writing partner.
"What drew me to this piece is that is was contemporary, colloquial and very funny," Lutvak told Playbill On-Line.
The purpose of the readings is to show the material in front of industry people and gauge interest in a possible future production. Joseph Baker is the musical director.
— By Kenneth Jones