The new musical, Sweet Smell of Success, will waft at Chicago's Shubert Theatre Dec. 16-Jan. 26, 2002, with John Lithgow, Brian d'Arcy James and Jack Noseworthy in principal roles prior to a spring 2002 Broadway opening.
A spokesman for the show confirmed that the Shubert was the tryout venue but said a Broadway theatre for the new tuner by librettist John Guare, composer Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist Craig Carnelia has not been announced. Nicholas Hytner directs.
Subscribers and potential subscribers to the "Broadway in Chicago" series, a joint venture of SFX and the Nederlanders, are being informed of the December-January Windy City booking of the musical, drawn from the 1957 film and novella by writer Ernest Lehman. Producer Marty Bell told Playbill On-Line that no other out of town dates are planned, and confirmed the trio of actors for the lead roles.
The darkly urban — and urbane — show about a powerful New York columnist (played by Lithgow), and the weasel-like press agent (played by James) who does his bidding, was cheered in workshop presentations in August 2000. SFX Theatrical Group, David Brown, Ernest Lehman and Marty Bell produced the workshop, which had July rehearsals and Aug. 1-2, 2000, presentations featuring Lithgow, James, Noseworthy (playing Dallas), Lauren Ward, Stacey Logan and a company of 16.
In recent weeks, NBC announced that Lithgow's TV series, "Third Rock From the Sun," would end this spring, clearing the way for the star to play the egomaniacal Winchell-like scribe, JJ Hunsecker. *
The buzz was palpable after the summer 2000 workshop of the intermissionless show, with direction by Nicholas Hytner and choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, prompting many to question why the producers would delay a good thing.
The cast will number 21, Bell said, adding that the show will go right into rehearsals without any more workshopping.
Drawn from Ernest Lehman's novella and his screenplay with Clifford Odets (for the 1957 movie), the story involves a sycophantic press agent, Sidney Falco, who does the bidding of powerful Hunsecker, wreaking havoc on innocent people, including Hunsecker's sister and beau.
Sweet Smell offers a dark world full of nasty people who hide in the shadows of New York City's nightlife in the 1950s, a jungle where losers win and winners lose as jazz plays in the background.
"Without losing any of the edge of the piece," Bell previously said, "I think you'll find something at the end that's hopeful."
The movie, with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, is full of character twists and turns, and changes of fortune. Bell said Guare has provided new twists that enhance the experience.
The writers and Hytner had their first read of the first draft of the show Nov. 9-19, 1998. The project was initiated by the then-active Livent, run by Garth Drabinsky. SFX eventually took over Livent's properties when the empire fell into financial ruin. Former Livent senior creative producer Bell said Sweet Smell is the last of the projects initiated by Livent. The Livent machine conceived or nurtured an impressive list of shows, however, including Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime, Barrymore, Fosse and Seussical. A Livent-developed rethinking of Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey, with a book by Terrence McNally is in limbo, Bell said.
Composer Hamlisch is best known for his Tony- and Pulitzer winning musical classic, A Chorus Line. He also had a long running hit with They're Playing Our Song but has enjoyed less success with subsequent projects, including Smile and The Goodbye Girl.
Carnelia is perhaps best-known for his song, "Just a Housewife," from Working. He wrote Is There Life After High School?, which had a short Broadway run in the early 1980s but was recorded and has attained a cult following.
Guare is the award-winning author of Six Degrees of Separation, The House of Blue Leaves, Four Baboons Adoring the Sun and the film "Atlantic City."
The original motion picture of Sweet Smell of Success was directed by Alexander Mackendrick and also starred Marty Milner, Sam Levene, Barbara Nichols, Susan Harrison, Joe Frisco and the Chico Hamilton Quintet.
The summer 2000 workshop also featured Joanna Glushak, Frank Vlastnik, Cleve Asbury, Michael McCormick, Bernard Dotson, Julio Augustin, Rachelle Rak, Kate Coffman, Mark Zimmerman, Colleen Hawks, Jamie Chandler-Toms, Roy Harcourt, Eric Michael Gillet, J.C. Montgomery, Shannon Lewis and Tobi Foster.