Inspired by the 1930 Kaufman and Hart comedy called Once in a Lifetime, about madcaps in the movie business at the time when talkies were dawning, the musical was tested in two readings and a 1983 workshop, but a full production never materialized.
Fade out — fade in.
The hot Broadway director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell (Legally Blonde, and a Tony winner for his La Cage aux Folles choreography) was in the chorus of the original Going Hollywood workshop in 1983. He always liked the material — and now he has the clout to help realize it.
Mitchell is helming a late-April New York City reading of the dusted-off, revised, restructured musical, with Tony Award-winning producer Hal Luftig (Legally Blonde, Movin' Out, Thoroughly Modern Millie) attached.
A private industry presentation is planned for May 6 to give the authors (and friends and colleagues) a new look at what they've got. John McDaniel (Brooklyn, Taboo, Annie Get Your Gun) is the music director. Zippel (City of Angels, The Goodbye Girl, The Woman in White) wrote the lyrics and is co-librettist; Leonardo (a respected writer-director known for his work in Chicago and nationally) co-wrote the book; and TV, film and theatre composer and conductor Sheffer penned the music.
Zippel told Playbill.com that the writers wanted to "create a musical that has the wink and charm and wit of Kaufman and Hart."
The original play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart focuses on three ex-vaudevillians (Jerry, May and George) who travel to Hollywood to give elocution lessons to silent-screen stars who are nervous about the impending changeover to talkies. There, they encounter out-of-work playwrights (one was played by Kaufman himself in 1930) who are hoping to make it big in pictures, and oversized Hollywood types, including a gossip columnist named Helen Hobart and a studio chief named Glogauer.
Luftig and Zippel said that Tony Award-winning director Jack O'Brien, Mitchell's collaborator on The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Hairspray, is Going Hollywood's "guardian angel," and that Mitchell is the project's director and choreographer.
Zippel said the earlier script and score have been "restructured a bit" and that a song previously cut has been re-inserted. Expect a tuneful, bouyant book musical comedy with a mid-sized cast.
The May 6 reading cast will include Christian Borle (Legally Blonde) as George, Matthew Morrison (South Pacific) as Jerry, Leslie Kritzer (A Catered Affair) as May, Josephine Rose Roberts as Susan Walker, Richard Kind (Bounce, New York City Opera's Candide) as Glogauer, Julie Halston as Glogauer's secretary Miss Leighton, David Pittu (LoveMusik) as the neglected Broadway playwright Lawrence Vail, with Todd Weeks, Luke Grooms, Noah Weisberg and others to be cast.
Mitchell was Tony-nominated for his choreography for Legally Blonde, Hairspray, Never Gonna Dance, The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He's currently seen as co-host of the Bravo reality series "Step It Up and Dance." His Broadway choreography credits also include Imaginary Friends, The Rocky Horror Show, Gypsy (additional choreography 2003), and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
Opening in September 1930, the play Once in a Lifetime ran 406 performances at Music Box. Grant Mills, Jean Dixon and Hugh O'Connell played Jerry, May and George, respectively. A 1978 Broadway revival played 85 performances at Circle in the Square, starring Treat Williams (Jerry), Deborah May (May) and John Lithgow (George).