Good Company - Songs That Made It From Shows That Didn't, a new musical revue written by Sheldon (She Loves Me, Fiddler on the Roof) Harnick, opens July 9 at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, MA.
The title comes from the idea that "if you've ever had a problem in show business, you're in good company," revue director Michael Montel explained. Montel has enjoyed just that kind of good company as director of musical classics like West Side Story and My Fair Lady for the Michigan Opera House. Prior to Good Company, he directed the world premiere of Robert Ashley and Maria Irene Fornes' Balseros for the Florida Grand Opera.
Good Company features set illustrations by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, including two new works depicting Dorothy Fields, Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart, and many other Broadway composers and lyricists whose work is highlighted in the revue. Montel said "we wrote the drawings into the script...they function as characters," because they are "so alive and witty."
Montel said that working on a revue is all about theme, and not recreating situations. "We really try to enter the world of the song, to stand back and listen, and make it seem as if it's the first time," the song is being performed. "The theme works if it make the songs pop out," Montel said, and "the drawings make it effortless."
Songs in the revue include Sondheim's "Not a Day Goes By" (Merrily We Roll Along), Porter's "From This Moment On" (Out of This World) and the Gershwins' "Strike Up the Band" (Strike Up the Band). Montel likens the performance to "doing 35 plays in one evening." The performers up to that challenge are Lewis (Once Upon a Mattress, Swinging On A Star) Cleale, Patti (Big River, The Mystery of Edwin Drood) Cohenour, Kathy (Swinging On A Star) Fitzgerald, Sheryl (Hercules) McCallum and Michael (Swinging On A Star) McGrath.
Good Company is choreographed by Karen Azenberg with musical direction by Fred Wells. It runs through July 19 at the Fitzpatrick Mainstage.
Also at the Berkshire Festival:
Woman In Mind, by Alan Ayckbourn, directed by Gordon Edelstein. This comedy stars Marlo Thomas July 22-Aug. 9, with an official opening July 23.
Ending the mainstage season (Aug.12-Aug. 30) will be the comedy Over The River And Through The Woods, by Joe Di Pietro, co-author of the Off-Broadway musical, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change. Joel Bishoff directs this look at family values, opening Aug. 13.
Four one-act plays by Thornton Wilder will make up Wilder, Wilder, hitting the New Unicorn Theatre July 1-26. (The New Unicorn serves as the Berkshire Fest's second stage.) Based on the idea of Broadway's Wilder, Wilder, Wilder, Wilder, Wilder will offer Infancy, Childhood, The Happy Journey To Camden And Trenton and Pullman Car Hiawatha. (The latter two one-acts were inWilder, Wilder, Wilder.) Eric Hill directs.
Following WW will be Quills, Doug Wright's look at the Marquis de Sade, running Aug. 7-23. Rick Corley directs the piece, which was staged at New York Theatre Workshop last season.
Now in its 13th year, the Young American Playwright Program gives 40 seventh graders a chance to develop short plays. At the end of the school year, two are chosen for production, and those will be staged July 11-Aug. 2, and Aug. 8-29 in the Fest's "Theatre Under The Tent For Families."
Lecture series and poetry readings will also be part of the Berkshire Festival, which is run by artistic director Arthur Storch and managing director Kate Maguire. Storch founded Syracuse Stage in 1974.
For tickets and information on the 69th annual Berkshire Theatre Festival season, call (413) 298-5576.