In its continuing love affair with semi-recent American musicals, the London press greeted the Barry Harman/Keith Herrmann show, Romance, Romance, with open arms when the chamber piece opened at the Gielgud Theatre March 4. The 1988 Broadway run of Romance, directed by lyricist Harman, received five Tony nominations.
That production featured Scott Bakula (of TV's "Quantum Leap") and Alison Fraser (Haunted Hotel; Tartuffe: Born Again). The London version stars Mark Adams and Caroline O'Connor (Mack And Mabel), with Linzi Hateley (of Carrie), Danny Teeson and Beth Robson.
Harman told Playbill On-Line that although reviews have been strong for the London revival, sales "have not been terrific, but we're considering plans for a English tour that may go to Europe and Australia as well. We're also in the discussion stage of a CD of the show, since the English cast is quite different from the American. In London, there are six performers, not four. The second act now has two new people, which really adds a lift to the piece, because the two marriages in act two matter more.
English director Steven Dexter directs the London revival, and he, Harman and Herrmann are teamed up again on a new musical project, Haunted Hotel, which received a reading at Musical Theatre Works in January. According to Harman's producer and friend, Harve Brosten, Hotel is a major-scale musical eyeing a workshop staging -- either in NY or London - towards the end of 1998 or early 1999.
Meanwhile, Brosten is in serious talks with the York Theatre about co producing a revival of Carmelina becoming part of the company's upcoming season. Harman and the late Burton Lane wrote six new songs for the show, which received a reading (featuring Debbie Gravitte) at the York Sept. 1996. With librettist Alan J. Lerner's approval, Harman also added additional lyrics to the piece's extant score. Harman believes the show still needs "some tweaking," but is "primarily ready to go. Before he died, Burton [Lane] was very excited about it, and Joe [Stein] also wanted it to go ahead. The amazing part was when I came in to do new lyrics (Burton and Alan didn't get along). I had to sing the songs for Lerner and essentially say, `Remember what you wrote? This is how I think it can be improved on.'"
Harman says the two basic problems with Carmelina have been solved. "In the original, you had the love interest, but he served no real purpose in the story. Now he's just as farcical as everyone else, so he fits into the fabric of the piece. Also, the whole story revolves around this woman living a lie about her daughter's father. One totally new song, "Sorry As I Am," lets her defend herself and her choices. It's an important moment for the character that she never had before."
If those projects weren't enough, Harman is also developing The Long Road Home, a musical with southern gospel, country and blues roots, that started as a pop songwriting project with collaborator, Kathy Sommer (who served as conductor on the original Romance, Romance). Four readings of the project were given at NY's Peekaboo Festival in early April, featuring singers Herndon Lackey, Nora Mae Ling and native Texan, Sally Mayes (She Loves Me, Closer Than Ever). Because of record company interest, the project will likely start as a concept CD and then reach Off-Broadway. Brosten is currently talking to producer Ben Sprecher about a 1998 Off-Broadway run.
Asked about how he organizes such a full schedule, Harman told Playbill On-Line, "I go back and forth between television and theatre. I'm currently doing two children's shows for pre-schoolers. One is a nature show for the Discovery Channel ("Once Upon A Tree"), and there's "Salty's Lighthouse" for Sunbow Entertainment.
Also on the front burner is Long Road Home: "The woman in that show," said Harman, "is a recovering alcoholic coming out of an abusive relationship. She `ing her way back. It's a love story about the new guy she meets -- who's also an alcoholic. The other performers serve as both back-up singers and emotional support. Our idea was to do a concept album with famous country singers, since each song Kathy and I wrote was a song in and of itself, as opposed to part of a unified dramatic piece."
Harman's future plans include his current collaboration with Grant Sturiale (music director and composer of Olympus On My Mind). They're adapting Under Fire, a Nick Nolte/Gene Hackman film, about a photographer forced into political intrigue in Nicaragua. Also on tap will be Every Thursday Night, written with Martin Silvestri, about America growing up on television. The premise has friends and co workers of a deceased early TV star coming back to do TV special about him and discovering through their remembrances what kind of man he really was.
And what about Haunted Hotel? "A couple of theatres have expressed interest, and we have to decide whether we want to go there or raise the money to do it directly in New York (because there are special effects and stuff). A Philadelphia theatre under consideration could take it for next season, but it's too early to say. Either way, it's very hard. People want new musicals, but the climate is not good."
--By David Lefkowitz