Heaven on Earth: "New" Gershwin Musical, With Connick and Directed by Marshall, Aiming for Broadway

News   Heaven on Earth: "New" Gershwin Musical, With Connick and Directed by Marshall, Aiming for Broadway A New York City casting notice indicates that Joe DiPietro's frisky rewrite of the 1926 Gershwin musical, Oh, Kay!, will be directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall for a fall 2008 premiere in Boston followed by a Broadway bow in 2009.
Kathleen Marshall
Kathleen Marshall Photo by Aubrey Reuben

This is the screwball musical comedy project that the New York Post previously reported had Harry Connick Jr. attached. Marshall directed the 2006 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of The Pajama Game with Connick as the Tony-nominated lead.

Playbill.com has learned that Connick is indeed expected to play the role of Jimmy in the Untitled Gershwin Project (as it is now called in the casting notice). In Oh, Kay! Jimmy got such choice songs as "Dear Little Girl," "Do, Do, Do" and "Heaven on Earth." Additional songs from the George and Ira Gershwin catalog are expected to be used.

DiPietro indicated in his All Shook Up bio that one of the project's recent titles was Heaven on Earth. The property was seen at Goodspeed Opera House as They All Laughed! in 2001; Heaven on Earth was mentioned as a potential title as early as 2001. Since that staging, a new producing team (Scott Landis, Emanuel Azenberg, Ann Marie Wilkins) and a new creative team (Marshall, music director Rob Fisher, Binder Casting) have become attached — and there have been rewrites.

Casting, dates and venues have not been officially announced.

Opposite Connick would be a twenty- or thirtysomething actress who would play a role that Gertrude Lawrence originated (she was "Kay" in 1926, and is called "Billie Bendix" in this version). Lawrence sang the future hit, "Someone to Watch Over Me" in Oh, Kay! Here's how the casting notice bills Billie: "Tough, clever, feisty and street-wise young woman. Falls hopelessly in love with Jimmy. First passes herself off as a college student to Jimmy, then as a Cockney maid to his fiancée, Eileen. Very appealing, attractive, pert and gamine. Chest mix with soprano extension. Must move very well." George Gershwin penned the music, brother Ira wrote the lyrics.

The new book by DiPietro (I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change and All Shook Up) is inspired by material by P.G. Wodehouse & Guy Bolton (who wrote Oh, Kay!).

Rehearsals begin in October prior to a December-January run in Boston, followed by an early 2009 start on Broadway.

The Long Island-set musical involves bootleggers, a senator, mistaken identity, disguises, a chorus girl and more.

"All actors must be superb farceurs," according to the casting notice.

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My One and Only (1983) and Crazy for You (1992, Best Musical Tony Award) are two Broadway hits that also borrowed from the Gershwin catalog. An African-American cast performed in a revised revival of Oh, Kay! on Broadway in 1990.

At the Alley Theatre in Houston this spring, Crazy for You librettist Ken Ludwig's An American in Paris — which has the same title as the famous M-G-M film, but a new plot — will premiere, using Gershwin hits (April 29-June 1).

The latter is billed this way: "The wild and hilarious new musical comedy The Gershwins' An American in Paris takes us on a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the legendary movie-musical. Reuniting Ken Ludwig, George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin — the team behind the Broadway smash Crazy For You — this new American musical tells the story of Michel Gerard, the greatest music hall singer in Paris. When Michel fails to turn up at Monumental Pictures' Paris studio for the filming of a new musical, Studio Head LB sends his practical, no-nonsense secretary, Rebecca Klemm, to find the missing star — and when the legendary Parisian crosses swords with the indomitable American, nothing short of fireworks ensue. Don't miss this blissful prequel to the famous movie, featuring some of the best-loved songs written by George and Ira Gershwin…"

"'S Wonderful," "They All Laughed" and "Stairway to Paradise" are in the score.