The busy Mark Brokaw (A Little Night Music at the Kennedy Center, Lobby Hero) will pilot a Feb. 5 NYC reading of Marty — the Charles Strouse-Lee Adams-Rupert Holmes musical of the Oscar-winning 1955 film about a homely, unassuming Bronx butcher who wins a new lease on life through an unexpected romance.
Brokaw takes over for Robert Longbottom, who had directed previous readings. According to Holmes, Longbottom had to bow out due to the demands made upon him by the Broadway-bound production of Flower Drum Song.
John C. Reilly, the True West star who headed a July 2001 reading, will again play the title role. His love interest, Clara, is played by Anne Torsiglieri, and Marty's mother is Barbara Andres.
Strouse told Playbill On-Line Jan. 28 that, if all goes well, this will be the final reading of the long-in-gestation Marty. The next step will be a pre-Broadway regional tryout. Strouse named Philadelphia and Boston as his preferred tryout towns, though he said the currently-popular Chicago was also a possibility.
In 2000, the show took on a new bookwriter in the person of Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood). Holmes replaced Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, television's "The West Wing" and "Sports Night"). Holmes told Playbill On-Line Feb. 1 that he did not adapt or rewrite Sorkin's script, but rather penned a new libretto from scratch. Holmes said the musical will be combination of intimate and grand elements. "When Marty won the Oscar," said Holmes, "Hollywood thought the only way to complete was to make things wider, bigger, better. They were trying to complete with TV. And along comes Marty, a small story about a lonely butcher. I think to make [the story] into `Marty!' with an exclamation mark, or have Marty vow to break the butchers' union, would be so inappropriate. [The musical is] about a character."
Still the show will feature a couple moments of spectacle, including one scene where the lovers go to a ballroom to dance.
* Composer Strouse and lyricist Adams are best known for the 1961 Tony winning Best Musical, Bye Bye Birdie. They also collaborated on Golden Boy, All-American and Applause. Strouse is also famous for his Annie score.
Holmes was brought A 2001 reading of Marty was held in NYC July 19-20 at 890 Broadway. Robert Longbottom directed.
The show was originally connected to Jason Alexander, although the "Seinfeld" actor did not take part in a 2000 reading of the show. Asked at the time if Alexander was through with the project, producer James Weissenbach could not say for sure but mentioned that the actor's new television series had been picked up, making it difficult for Alexander to be part of a hoped-for Broadway mounting of Marty. That series, "Bob Patterson," has since been canceled.
John C. Reilly received acclaim for his performance opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman in the Broadway revival of True West. The two actors, who have appeared together in films such as "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia," created a sensation by trading the roles of Lee and Austin every three performances.
"We've heard him sing," Weissenbach told Playbill On-Line. "He sings incredibly well." He added, however, that the show would be tailored to fit Reilly's more actorly mien. "The show's going to be less musical comedy, more realistic. The actors we're looking at are the actors who can sing. as opposed to the singers who can act."
Weissenbach, a native Chicagoan, said his dream set-up for the show would be to try it out in the Windy City and then bring it to Broadway in spring 2002.
On screen, the movie earned Oscars for Ernest Borgnine, who played Marty, screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, and director Delbert Mann. It also won the Best Picture prize.
Holmes' latest thriller, Thumbs, starring Kathie Lee Gifford, will have its world premiere at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, NY, March 9-24.
—By Robert Simonson