The once Broadway-bound Shine!, a rags-to-riches musical comedy inspired by the Horatio Alger character Ragged Dick, resurfaces April 23 and 30 in New York City with readings in the National Music Theatre Network's Broadway USA series.
Drawing on Alger books and characters, including the scrappy shoe-shine boy known as "Ragged Dick," the onetime Broadway-aimed project had a previous regional production in the 1980s and a reading at the York Theatre in 1998. The newly revised book is by original librettist Richard Seff, the score is by composer Roger Anderson and lyricist Lee Goldsmith.
Peter Flynn directs and Georgia Stitt musical-directs a cast of 20 that includes Brooks Ashmanskas (Little Me), Bill Buell (Titanic), Andrea Burns (Saturday Night, Parade on tour), Carole Shelley (Cabaret), Harvey Evans (La Cage aux folles) and newcomer Jeremiah Miller as the young shoe-shining hero, Dick. The dashing villain has yet to be cast.
Shine! was announced for Broadway in 1982 but got scuttled when producer 20th Century Fox went through management changes and the theatre division was disbanded, according to the collaborators. Songs in the score include "Keeping Up With the Times," "Partners," "Someone," "Shine," "Look How Far We've Come," "Respectable" and more.
A reading directed by Jay Binder was seen in 1998 at Off Broadway's York Theatre Company, with Christopher Fitzgerald and Laura Benanti. An earlier version of the show, about shoeshine boys in 1876 New York City, was seen in 1983 at the Museum Theatre in Richmond, VA, featuring George Lee Andrews and Alix Korey. Seff told Playbill On-Line narrative clarifications have been made and several new songs have been written, restored or scrapped since earlier versions in 1983 and 1998.
NMTN guest artistic director Martin Charnin (lyricist and director of Annie) was part of a team of theatre professionals that judged scripts and selected Shine!, The Rose and the Ring and Cupid and Psyche to be presented by NMTN in spring 2001 for two performances each. Staged readings are seen by an audience that includes subscribers and industry professionals.
It's not a surprise that Charnin might be attracted to the score and flavor of Shine! Observers say although the show does have the grit of Oliver!, it also has the innocent American feel of Charnin's Annie.
Producing director Lindsey Hanahan said NMTN is not a "developmental" series, but serves to get a producing community interested in new works. "Talkbacks" and public evaluations are not part of the process.
Shine! presentations are 7 PM April 23 and 30 at the 180-seat Theatre at St. Luke's, 308 W. 46th Street. For information about NMTN, check out the website at www.broadwayusa.org or call (212) 664-0979.
— By Kenneth Jones