Fall 1997 will bring a campy comedy about the life of Jackie Onassis to Off-Broadway, but before that, Jackie's first husband will get the full scale musical treatment in JFK - A Musical Drama, a Broadway-bound show trying out in Dublin for eight weeks.
Workshopped as Jack at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT, in 1994, then world-premiered at the University of Oklahoma in 1995 -- in a full production starring John Cullum as Joseph Kennedy (JFK's dad) -- JFK will run at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin, April 22 through June 15.
Author/composer Will Holt (libretto for The Me Nobody Knows, Music Is, Platinum and Over Here!) and co-librettist Tom Sawyer, changed the name from Jack to JFK because, as production spokesperson Keith Sherman told the New York Post, they feared the musical would be perceived as a "cutesy, song and dance show," whereas it's a more serious work.
The creators and producers (Isobel Robins Konecky, Stewart F. Lane, Max Weitzernhoffer) also knew the show needed more work before a New York run (now eyed for spring 1998 at the earliest). They were considering a NY or regional workshop when the producers took the musical to a London general manager, who was mulling West End production. Suddenly, however, Ireland made the most sense. Spokesperson Jim Byk told Playbill On-Line, "Amazingly enough, it cost only a little more to do a fully-scaled production in Dublin than it would have to do a workshop in Manhattan. And besides, they discovered that Jack Kennedy is a real hero in Ireland; he's the ultimate Irish immigrant success story, and there's a real fascination with the Kennedy family there."
According to Byk, JFK - A Musical Drama focuses largely on the Joe/Jack relationship, a father/son power struggle that shifts when the oldest Kennedy child, Joseph Jr., is shot down in World War II. "And JFK's assassination is tactfully handled. The whole musical is sort of Evita ish, the feel is similar." Larry Fuller, who choreographed Evita, Sweeney Todd, On The Twentieth Century and Merrily We Roll Along on Broadway, is choreographing and directing JFK. The Dublin production is cast completely with Irish and English actors, featuring Maurice Clarke as JFK -- a role he played in the West End musical, King, about the life of Martin Luther King. He's also starred in London in City Of Angels, Les Miz and Brigadoon. Joseph Kennedy Sr., is played by Gary Raymond, Rose by Stella McCusker, Jacqueline Kennedy by Monica Ernestis, Bobby by Michael Londra, and Honey Fitz by Brian De Salvo.
Byk told Playbill On-Line the show's official logo is a rendering of a beaming Jack Kennedy, with the image of his face made up of little "JFK" initials.
Composer/librettist Holt has worked on Broadway's Me And Bessie, The Me Nobody Knows, Over Here!, Music Is, and Platinum. Librettist Sawyer, head writer for TV's "Murder She Wrote," is the co-creator and publisher of "Plots Unlimited" interactive software for fiction writers.
--By David Lefkowitz