A publicity-crazed actor becomes a psycho-killer; the detective out to catch him must also juggle his nagging mother and the attentions of a beautiful socialite.
These may turn out to be the materials of the sleeper hit of the Off-Broadway season. The well-received York Theatre Company production of the musical No Way To Treat a Lady has been extended past its original Jan. 19 closing date through Feb. 2, and is contemplating a commercial run.
Production spokesperson Jim Byk told Playbill On-Line, "Business is terrific, and word-of-mouth has been very strong." Then why close Feb. 2? "The York operates on a Letter of Agreement contract, which runs 7 weeks. After that, you either have to close or turn into a commercial production. There's a remote chance we may do that, but we'll have to see."
He said that if they did so, they would try to stay at the Theatre at St. Peter's.
There's also a remote chance the production may wind up on CD. "Douglas Cohen has been talking to Varese [Sarabande records]. And they already put two of the show's songs on their "Broadway Bound" album; we'll see," said Byk. Cohen wrote the book, music and lyrics, adapting William Goldman's comic thriller to musical form. (George Segal, Lee Remick and Rod Steiger starred in the non-musical 1968 film.) For the current York production, Cohen has written new songs and revised the script based on the results of regional productions done in the past decade.
Starring in Lady are Paul Schoeffler as the killer, Adam Grupper as the detective, Marguerite MacIntyre (Mata Hari in last season's musical revival of the same name) and cabaret singer Alix Korey in multiple roles as various mothers and victims.
According to Byk, the new songs are "I Need A Life," sung by detective Morris and murderer Kit; "Only A Heartbeat Away," sung by Kit; "Lunch With Sarah" sung by Morris, and the song-to-watch, "So Much In Common." Also, "So Far So Good" and "What Shall I Sing For You" will get new reprises, and "You're Getting Warmer," "Front Page News" and "Still" will get new lyrics.
The book, too, has undergone changes, with 80 percent new material for the Morris and Sarah scenes, and a new 10-minute finale. Cohen's reason for changing so much material from the well-received 1987 version had to do with focus. "Morris is the show's heart, and that needs to be established," Byk said. "Besides, an audience has a tough time taking a serial killer to heart."
James Morgan designed the elaborate set, which captures New York in the 1970's in a 3-D, Red Grooms-inspired style. "The colors are dazzling but a little ominous," Byk said. "Lots of purples, greens and pinks." Four lipstick kisses comprise the show's logo, a reference to Kit's calling card on his victims.
Yvonne De Moravia-Jensen the costumes, Mary Jo Dondlinger the lighting, Jim van Bergen the sound. Daniel Stewart choreographs the show, which will be directed by Scott Schwartz. Schwartz will direct another production of the show in Arlington, VA, in 1997.
Cohen won a Richard Rodgers Grant from the American Academy of Arts & Letters for Lady, and the show has since been presented at The Pope (Florida), Thorndike (London), TheatreWorks (California) and the Berkshire Festival. He is also the author of The Gig, to be produced Jan. 1997 by the American Stage Company in Teaneck, NJ.
Schwartz is former artistic director of the American Experience Theatre of Haverford, PA.
For tickets ($30-$35) and information on No Way To Treat A Lady, playing at St. Peter's Church at the Citicorp Center on Lexington Avenue, call (212) 935-5820.
--By David Lefkowitz