Florida producer Alan Jacobson told Playbill On-Line that he has wanted to commission a musical of the popular late-1980s play about a Jewish girl who hires a non-Jewish actor stand-in as her very Jewish boyfriend (in an effort to please her parents over Passover). James Sherman turned Jacobson down four years ago, but the producer asked again recently and the playwright gave in.
Jacobson said the musical version will bow at the Hollywood Playhouse in South Florida on New Year's Eve and have a multi-week run into 2004, possibly moving into Palm Beach County after its Hollywood run.
"Beau Jest was a wonderful show not just because it's funny, but it's got a lot of humanity and real issues in it," Jacobson, of Jupiter, FL, said. "I also see a need for small musicals to be produced in the regions — I always saw that theatres were looking for those musicals."
Jacobson hooked up Chicago playwright Sherman (an ensemble member of Victory Gardens Theatre, where Beau Jest originally debuted) with New York composer Ross (who penned Off-Broadway's Little By Little) and the two hit it off and have been writing long-distance to deliver a first-draft by April 1. Jacobson is assembling a creative team for the winter run.
The Hollywood, FL, run may be followed by a run at the theatre at the Jewish Community Center in West Palm Beach, where Jacobson has programmed shows in the past. "My goal, " Jacobson said, "is to get a couple regional productions and take it to New York."
The show has two things going for it already, the producer said: It has a built-in market, having played theatres in major markets all over the country; and it has a small cast of six.
Jacobson produced showcases in the garment district of Manhattan under the umbrella of The Jerusalem Group Theatre, and moved to Florida in 1993. At the West Palm Beach JCC he started a non-Equity Florida Jewish Theatre with 500 subscribers and three years later had 2,500 and an arrangement with Actors' Equity, and played various spaces beyond the JCC.
He has been producing plays, musicals and cabaret shows are borrowed spaces in South Florida.
In 1999, he staged the first major regional production of Rene Taylor and Joseph Bologna's If You Ever Leave Me, I'm Going With You following its Los Angeles workshop, before it came to New York. He also produced Anne Meara's Down the Garden Paths at the Royal Poinciana Playhouse, among other projects.
His latest venture is Mainstage Cabaret, which will produce cabaret shows (what he calls "dessert club style" — a cabaret with cash bar, desserts and more) in Boynton Beach, FL.
To contact producer Jacobson, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Off-Broadway staging of the play, Beau Jest, opened Oct. 10, 1991, at the Lamb's Theater. Dennis Zacek directed (as he did at Victory Gardens in Chicago) and the cast included Laura Patinkin (as single Jewish girl Sarah Goldman), John Michael Higgins (as the jerk boyfriend), Tom Hewitt (as actor stand-in boyfriend, Bob), Larry Fleischman (as Sarah's brother, Joel), Roslyn Alexander and Bernie Landis (as the parents). Sherman penned a sequel, Jest a Second, which told of brother Joel's reluctant coming out of the closet — another sibling trying desperately to please his parents.