Jolson sings -- at last.
Bookings through January 1999 have been announced for the American tour of Jolson -- The Musical, the hit, London-originated biography of vaudeville crooner Al Jolson.
Mike Burstyn, in the title role, and company will open the tour Oct. 6 (through Oct. 18) in Cleveland, OH., at the newly-renovated Allen Theatre, one of a cluster of refurbished theatres in downtown Cleveland's historic Playhouse Square. Jolson -- not to be confused with the Off Broadway hopeful The Jazz Singer -- will end its Ohio stint Oct. 18.
Also on the schedule, through Jan. 17, 1999:
Boston Shubert Theatre Oct. 20-Nov. 1
Grand Rapids, MI. DeVos Hall Nov. 3-8
Hershey, PA. Hershey Theatre Nov. 10-15
Detroit Fisher Theatre Nov. 17-22
Baltimore Lyric Theatre Nov. 24-29
Sarasota, FL. Van Wezel Theatre Dec. 1-6
(Three week layoff)
Indianapolis, IN. Clowes Hall Dec. 29-Jan. 3
Philadelphia, PA Merriam Theatre Jan. 5-17, 1999
The title role was originated to acclaim in London (and later in Toronto) by Brian Conley. In the states, however, Mike Burstyn (Ain't Broadway Grand, Off-Broadway's The Rothschilds ) will sing such Jolson hits as "Toot Toot Tootsie" and "Swanee."
Joining Burstyn in the panoramic show-business story that uses period songs are Helen A. Holliday, Harry A. Winter, Donna Lynne Champlin (as Ruby Keeler), Kenny Morris and Jeff Richards.
The tour was considered pre-Broadway last summer, but it remains unclear if and when Jolson may play New York or what the tour's duration will be. Representatives of the tour's producer, the Rockabye Company, were not immediately available Oct. 1 to confirm plans.
Jolson -- The Musical, penned by Francis Essex and Rob Bettinson from an idea by Michael Freedland, is expected to play additional dates in 1999, so cities previously announced as possibilities -- Denver, Palm Desert, CA., Richmond, VA., Milwaukee, Seattle, Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Phoenix, Tucson, San Diego, Atlanta and Vancouver, Montreal -- may yet be represented.
Bill Castellino directs Jolson, while Joey McKneely (Smokey Joe's Cafe ) choreographs. Designing Jolson -- The Musical are James Fouchard (set), Bruce Harrow (costumes), and John McLaine (lighting).
Songs in the show will include such Jolson standards "Let Me Sing," "I'm Happy," "I'm Sitting On Top of the World," "Blue Skies," "April Showers," "Baby Face," "Carolina in the Morning," "Sunny Boy," "Rockabye Your Baby" and "Give My Regards To Broadway."
Jolson (1886-1950), once billed as "The World's Greatest Entertainer," starred in such hit musicals as Sinbad and Bombo. His made movie history in 1927 by appearing in the first talking picture, "The Jazz Singer."