Longtime songwriting partners Robert Wright and George Forrest (Kismet, Grand Hotel ) are working on a new musical based on the classic Eudora Welty novella, "The Ponder Heart," tentatively titled Whirlygig.
The team's artistic associate, Walter Willison, who is writing the libretto with Douglas Holmes, told Playbill On-Line Dec. 21 the project is being developed with actress Marcia Lewis (Chicago) in mind to play spinster Edna Earle, one of Welty's indelible characters.
The story is about an old maid who runs a hotel in the South and her eccentric uncle and his child-bride, Willison said. The libretto is based on the 1953 Welty novella and play of the same name by Jerome Chodorov and Joseph Fields. The play opened at Broadway's Music Box Theatre Feb. 16, 1956 starring Una Merkel as Edna (who won a Tony Award for it) and David Wayne as Uncle Daniel Ponder.
There has already been a 1989 opera version of the novella, which played Welty's hometown, and a one-woman show called Edna Earle, Willison said.
One song from Whirlygig, "Let a Little Love In," had its recording premiere on the Wright-Forrest concept CD, "A Bag of Popcorn and a Dream" (Original Cast Records), released Dec. 15. Wright, 84, and Forrest, 83, split their time between New York and Florida and are actively involved in several projects, said Willison. They both write music and lyrics.
The writers met in 1929 at Miami (FL) High School, and began penning songs ("Hail to Miami High," for starters). They wrote for nightclub acts at the Copacabana and for Jane Froman, went to Hollywood and wrote for MGM and penned classically tinged scores for Broadway's Song of Norway (based on Grieg themes, 1944), Kismet (based on Borodin, 1953), Magdalena (written with Villa-Lobos, 1948) and an African-American version of Kismet called Timbuktu! (1978).
A biography of the pair is in the works.
-- By Kenneth Jones