Jennifer Lee Andrews & James Brennan To Triumph at PA's Walnut, Sept. 16

News   Jennifer Lee Andrews & James Brennan To Triumph at PA's Walnut, Sept. 16 Director Michael Mayer, who's had nothing but triumphs since, ironically, Triumph of Love failed at the box office on Broadway, will once again direct that musical in its first major regional production.
Sean Arbuckle, Jennifer Lee Andrews
Sean Arbuckle, Jennifer Lee Andrews Photo by Photo by Coy Butler

Director Michael Mayer, who's had nothing but triumphs since, ironically, Triumph of Love failed at the box office on Broadway, will once again direct that musical in its first major regional production.

Philadelphia, PA's Walnut Street Theatre starts its mainstage season with Mayer's Triumph, Sept. 8-Oct. 25, opening Sept. 16. Jennifer Lee Andrews (Leonide) and James Brennan (Hermocrates) star, in roles played on Broadway by Susan Egan and F. Murray Abraham. Mary Martello plays Hesione, the part played in NY by Betty Buckley.

Brennan, a Walnut Theatre veteran, starred on Broadway in Me and My Girl.

Co-starring in Triumph of Love are Sean Arbuckle (Agis), Daniel Marcus (Dimas), Tony Freeman (Harlequin) and Carla Renata Williams (Corine).

James Magruder (book), Jeffrey Stock (music) and Susan Birkenhead (lyrics) penned the farcical piece, taking its cue from Marivaux's play of the same name. It's the story of a princess who stops at nothing -- including gender-bending -- to woo the man she loves. Tunes in the show include "Henchmen" and "Serenity." Director Mayer has been working non-stop lately, from Side Man and A View From The Bridge (both currently on Broadway) to Off Broadway's Stupid Kids, plus upcoming Broadway revivals of Lion in Winter and You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, and a stage adaptation of Thoroughly Modern Millie. The schedule is less punishing than it sounds, says Walnut spokesperson Maria Sticco (Aug. 24), because assistant director Kevin Moriarty is essentially recreating Mayer's Broadway work. Doug Varone, who choreographed the NY Triumph, is also on-hand for this production.

Rehearsals began Aug. 21 for the musical, which retains the original designs (Heidi Ettinger (set), Catherine Zuber (costumes)) to be recreated by Matthew Maraffi and Colleen McMillan, respectively. Lighting is by James Vermeulen.

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After Triumph, Anything Goes! That is, the Cole Porter, P.G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay & Russell Crouse musical, which has such classic tunes as "Blow Gabriel Blow" and "I Get A Kick Out Of You." Anything Goes goes from Nov. 10-Dec. 27, directed by Frank Anzalone and choreographed by Mary Jane Houdina.

Starring are Karen K. Edissi (as Reno Sweeney), Abe Reybold (as Billy Crocker), Dan Schiff (as Moonface Martin).

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A world-premiere of sorts follows, with playwright Neil Simon reconstructing his own material to come up with Hotel Suite, a new production which will premiere Jan. 12, 1999. The play consists of four scenes collected from Simon's Plaza Suite (1968), California Suite (1976) and London Suite (1995).

Simon came up with the idea for the evening a couple years ago, according to Walnut Street publicist Maria Sticco. The dramatist planned to stage it in London, but gave up on the project when he "couldn't cast it" properly. A version was presented at the 1997 Chichester Festival.

Hotel Suite's four scenes, are, in order: Visitors from London from California Suite, about an Oscar-nominated, English actress and her husband; Visitor from Philadelphia, also from California Suite, about a couple from Philly, one of whom wakes up with a stranger; Diana and Sydney from London Suite, a second look at the English couple of the first scene; and Visitor from Mamaroneck from Plaza Suite, about a suburban husband with an unpleasant surprise for his wife on their wedding anniversary.

Charles Abbott will direct the show, which will fill the third slot in the Walnut Street's 1998-99 season. No casting has been announced. The show will open Jan. 20 and run through Feb. 8.

For now, there are no New York plans for the production. "I think [Neil Simon] believes other regional theatres will want to do it because he thinks it's a great combination," said Sticco. "But he didn't talk about New York."

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While the Neil Simon show offers four tall stories, the next production (March 9-April 25, 1999) will offer Three Tall Women, Edward Albee's Pulitzer-winning drama of an elderly woman looking back at three stages of her life. Albee's other plays include A Delicate Balance and The Death of Bessie Smith Malcolm Black directs.

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Grand Hotel, the 1988 musical with a score by Maury Yeston (Titanic) and Wright & Forrest (Kismet) adapted the play of the same titles about intersecting lives of rich and poor guests at a 1920s Berlin hotel. Grand Hotel closes the Walnut season May 11-June 27, 1999. Bruce Lumpkin (Walnut's Goodbye Girl) directs.

For more information on the Walnut Street Theatre season call (215) 574 3550.

-- By David Lefkowitz

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