Kickin' the Clouds Away: The Gershwins' Rare Tell Me More Gets Reading

News   Kickin' the Clouds Away: The Gershwins' Rare Tell Me More Gets Reading
 
Producers David Elliott and Martin Platt are presenting a starry staged reading of a new version of the 1925 Gershwin musical Tell Me More for industry folk and friends Dec. 10 in Manhattan.
Beth Leavel
Beth Leavel Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Platt directs and Paul Gemignani conducts the Jazz Age score, which is not widely known despite a studio recording released in recent years. The show's best-known song may be "Kickin' the Clouds Away," reused in the Tommy Tune vehicle, My One and Only.

The piano-and-voice presentation in midtown Manhattan is to test the viability of a re-tooled libretto (by Jon Marans) and interpolations from the show's subsequent London production. There is hope for a future full production.

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The score is by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and B.G. DeSylva. Desmond Carter also gets lyric credit. The original book is by Fred Thompson and William K. Wells.

Marans is the respected playwright of Old Wicked Songs. Gemignani is the musical director and conductor often linked to the works of Stephen Sondheim. Elliott and Platt are producing partners who presented not-for-profit productions at Perry Street Theatre. Musical staging is by Randy Skinner, who helped create the original Broadway choreography for 42nd Street, and who helped reinvent the film, "Irving Berlin's White Christmas," as a Broadway-style stage hit in major markets in recent years.

The Tell Me More cast on Dec. 10 will include Stephen DeRosa (Into the Woods) as Monty, Tony Award winner Beth Leavel (The Drowsy Chaperone) as Jane, Jill Paice (Curtains) as Peggy, D.B. Bonds (Make Me a Song) as Billy, Jim Walton (Merrily We Roll Along) as Kenneth, Megan Sikora (Curtains) as Bonnie, Tony winner Carole Shelley (The Elephant Man, Wicked) as Mrs. Wallace, Julie Halston (Gypsy with Bernadette Peters) as Mrs. Pennyfeather, Linda Gabler as Gertrude, Patty Goble as Mamie, Rob Lorey as Harry and Bob Ari (Die Mommie Die!) as M. Cerise with John Armstrong, Fred Inkley, Todd A. Horman, Frank Mastrone, Devin Richards, Derin Altay, Jane Brockman, Casey Erin Clark, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Leslie Henstock and Julie Tolivar.

Nick Archer will be at the piano. Allison Deutsch is the stage manager.

Tommy Krasker restored and produced a studio recording of the score for a CD that was released on the New World label in 2001. Platt fell in love with it and spent five years communicating with the Gershwin estate seeking the performance rights and permission to create a new version with a freshened book that follows the show's original elements — three couples and their obstacles.

Platt said one of the score's fascinating features is that it falls between a period in theatre music when the taste for operetta (say, in the Jerome Kern style) was bumping up against a new sound — the heat and jazz that Gershwin would be famous for.

This new stage version of Tell Me More includes additional songs not heard on the 2001 recording, including "Evening Star" (cut from Lady Be Good, included in the London Tell Me More as "Love I Never Knew"); "Gushing" (which was intended for both Rosalie and Tell Me More, but not used in either); "Murderous Monty" (by George Gershwin and Desmond Carter, from the London Tell Me More); and "He-Man" (written for Tell Me More, but not used).

For industry inquiries, e-mail david@perrystreettheatre.com.

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