The bigger-than-life novelist Jacqueline Susann leaps from the page to the stage in Paper Doll, a world-premiere play about her topsy turvy world, starring Marlo Thomas, opening Nov. 16 at Pittsburgh Public Theater.
The Pennsylvania nonprofit also welcomes Academy Award winner F. Murray Abraham, who plays Irving Mansfield, the husband-manager of the "Valley of the Dolls" novelist. Performances continue to Dec. 9.
Leonard Foglia (Broadway's Master Class) directs the new work by Mark Hampton and Barbara J. Zitwer, which is presented in association with Montauk Highway, Inc. Given the talent involved, the resident tryout is clearly a test of the new material toward a possible commercial future.
The starry leading players help make Paper Doll the third high profile production in three seasons at the resident Pennsylvania company. August Wilson's King Hedley II had its world premiere at PPT and the Broadway musical, By Jeeves, had its resident tryout there in early 2001 . Emmy Award-winner Thomas ("That Girl," Broadway's Social Security) plays the flamboyant, troubled Susann, who died in 1974. The cast includes Joanne Genelle in multiple roles, Armando Rodriguez as Jésus and a black poodle named Barney as Susann's beloved dog, Josie.
The recent film, "Isn't She Great" also focused on Susann, with Bette Midler as the sassy, outlandish, rags-to-riches author. Part of the new play is set in Pittsburgh in 1971.
Co-author Hampton memorably co-wrote Full Gallop, the Diana Vreeland solo play, with actress-writer Mary Louise Wilson. With longtime friend Stuart Ross, creator of Forever Plaid, he recently co-authored a musical based on the life of the '30s singing trio, the Boswell Sisters, which recently had its world premiere at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre. Co-author Zitwer is the founder and owner of an international literary agency based in New York City, Barbara J. Zitwer Agency. She is also a film and television producer and her feature films include the cult classic, "Vampire's Kiss," starring Nicholas Cage. Zitwer is the author of the "Magic of the Ocean" series published by Warner Books. Paper Doll is her first play.
"The world-premiere of Paper Doll continues our goal of producing an exciting mix of classics, great musicals and new plays," said artistic director Ted Pappas, in a statement.
Designers are Michael McGarty (set), Martin Pakledinaz (costume), Brian Nason (lighting) and Zach Moore (sound).
Tickets for Paper Doll range from $28-$50. For PPT tickets and further information, call (412) 316-1600 or visit the Public's box office at the O'Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Avenue, Downtown. Tickets and more information are also available at www.ppt.org.
— By Kenneth Jones