Two changes in the upcoming Broadway adaptation of Cole Porter's 1956 film High Society: The first preview has been changed by one day, from March 30 to 31 at the St. James Theatre. Also, Tony-nominee Jere Shea (Passion) has left the cast. No reason was given for his departure from the show, which stars Melissa Errico, Daniel McDonald and Randy Graff.
The production opens April 23. Tickets went on sale Sunday, Jan. 18 at (212) 239-6200. The High Society film was based on Philip Barry's 1939 play, The Philadelphia Story.
The recent change to the St. James comes after initial speculation that High Society would fill the Richard Rodgers, the venue for Side Show. The sets, props and costumes for Side Show are still in the Rodgers, however; fueling speculation that that show will return for a spring run at the Tonys. Rumor has it that Grease! may stick around a little longer, though a production spokesperson has said repeatedly (and reiterated Jan. 15) that Grease! is definitely closing Jan. 25. The St. James however, is vacant and ready, thanks to the recent closing of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and the postponement of On The Town.
Choreographer Christopher d'Amboise had been attached to High Society but took over for Eliot Feld on On The Town, so Lar Lubovitch took over the choregraphic duties on High Society. (Ironically, d'Amboise and George C. Wolfe recently parted company on Town, postponing that show till next season).
Lubovitch was responsible for the musical staging of two sequences in the current King And I revival. He also worked on the dance staging for James Lapine's 1995 drama at Lincoln Center, Twelve Dreams. The San Francisco try-out of the Broadway-bound musical, which opened at the American Conservatory Theatre Sept. 10, 1997, extended its sold out run there from Oct. 5 to Oct. 12. Cast-members at ACT still with the show include:
Tony nominee Daniel McDonald, who played the marathon-dancing Atlantic City in Steel Pier, plays Philadelphian Main Liner, C.K. Dexter Haven.
Melissa Errico, who got raves in the last Broadway revival of My Fair Lady and in the "Encores!" production of One touch of Venus, stars as his ex, Tracy Lord, a blueblood altar-bound again.
Another Tony nominee (for Passion), Jere Shea, was supposed to play Macaulay Connor, the magazine reporter who amorously complicates her proposed nuptials, but that role is being recast.
Randy Graff, a Tony winner for City of Angels, is Connor's wise-cracking sidekick photographer, pursued all over the elegant Main Line premises by Tracy's randy unmarried uncle (John McMartin of Follies fame).
Also featured in the Society cast are Lisa Banes (Arcadia), Michael Goodwin (Cyrano), Mark Kudisch (Gaston in Beauty & The Beast), and 13-year-old Lisbeth Zelle.
Aside from most of the songs from the movie, this new version has nothing to do with the British High Society that first reached the stage a few years ago with Natasha Richardson. The brand-new Yankee edition will be spiced with standards plus tunes from other Porter scores (all except those from Anything Goes and Kiss Me Kate).
Designing the A.C.T. High Society are Loy Arcenas (sets), Jane Greenwood (costumes) (Judith Dolan did the costumes at ACT), Christopher Akerlind did the lighting in San Francisco, but no designer has been chosen for NY. Tony Meola repeats his chores on the sound design.
This story of the humanization (through love) of a haughty aristocratic woman was written specifically for Katharine Hepburn because Barry liked the movie she did of his play, Holiday. The result, The Philadelphia Story, opened at Broadway's Shubert March 28, 1939, and revitalized Hepburn's sagging career. The roles of the ex-hubby, reporter, photographer and philanderer were originated by Joseph Cotten, Van Heflin, Shirley Booth and Forrest Orr on stage and filmed a year later by Cary Grant, an Oscar-winning James Stewart, Ruth Hussey and Roland Young; in Porter's filmusical (which had Philadelphia's pre-princess, Grace Kelly, in the Hepburn role), those parts were essayed by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm and, in his last film, Louis Calhern.
The Dodgers are producing the show with Lauren Mitchell, the former actress and debuting producer. (She originated the title role in Kiss of the Spider Woman when that musical premiered at SUNY Purchase in the spring of 1990.)