1040, the new play by Other People's Money playwright Jerry Sterner, will open Nov. 15 for a one-week run at the Stamford Center for the Arts. The play concerns -- that's right -- the tax code, or, more particularly, a father and daughter's attempts to change it.
The last time we heard from 1040, it was a musical with songs by Jerry Bock, getting a read-through in November 1997 at the Musical Theatre Lab at the University of Houston School Of Theatre. The work's journey from musical to play is, as Sterner tells it, a long story, stretching back to 1990. That's when producers Fran and Barry Weissler asked Sterner to write a book for a musicalization of the 1939 film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" with Maltby and Shire penning the music. Since Sterner has a horror for any black and white film, he was not familiar with the classic, so the Weisslers lent him a copy.
"I thought it was a dishonest movie," Sterner told Playbill On-Line. "Jimmy Stewart would have gotten off that bus and been eaten alive.
"Then it occurred to me, what would be to politics what a corporate takeover is to business. It took me six minutes to come up with it: The tax code. That's where we reward our friends and punish our enemies."
He relayed his idea to Maltby and Shire, who were skeptical. So Sterner decided to write a tax code play, and place monologues where he thought songs might be appropriate. The job took six months. By then Maltby and Shire and the Weisslers had moved on to other things. Sterner ended up teamed with Jerry Bock (She Loves Me), leading to the Texas reading. "Although it worked out pretty well, Bock and myself had differences as to what the root of the work should be from there on forward. It was agreed I would take my play, and he would take his music."
Sterner has kept certain elements of the musical form, however, including a chorus of sorts, made up of lobbyists, spin doctors, senators, journalists and other assorted bad guys.
So, eight years after its beginnings, 1040 will have its premiere at the Stamford Center.Michael Scheman directs a cast of ten. Sterner said, if it goes well, the plan is to do it at a major regional theatre for four to six weeks. If that is successful, then the show may come to New York.
For information, call (203) 325-4466.
-- By Robert Simonson