Jeff Baron's comedy, Visiting Mr. Green, which has played at the Union Square Theatre since Nov. 28, 1997, was all set to close Oct. 4, to make room for the play Band In Berlin. But according to Caral Craig at the Jeffrey Richards press office (Sept. 23), Berlin has been postponed, so Mr. Green will continue its visit through Jan. 3, 1999.
However, James Morrison, a spokesman for Berlin, told Playbill On-Line that Mr. Green's extension came first, thus forcing the Berlin producers to look for another theatre. The show is currently searching for a new space, said Morrison, but has yet to find a free house.
Band in Berlin, the musical about the vocal sextet the Comedian Harmonists, was to open at the Union Square Theatre Nov. 3.
Berlin played the American Music Theatre Festival Mar. 11-22 at the WHYY Forum Theatre in Philadelphia. Written by Susan Feldman, it features the sextet Hudson Shad. It is co-directed by Feldman and Patricia Birch, and choreographed by Birch (best known for her work on Broadway in shows ranging from Grease to Pacific Overtures).
The Comedian Harmonists, who rose to prominence in 1920s Germany, were inspired by well-known American groups of the era like the Mills Brothers and the Texas Revellers. Half of the Harmonists' members were Jewish, and -- as Hitler rose to power -- the group was increasingly harrassed by the German censors and in 1935 was forced to disband. The Jewish group members emigrated to the U.S., but were unable to succeed as performers without the other troupe members.
Band in Berlin utilizes multimedia elements (including film, projections and shadow puppetry) and features songs that became closely identified with the Harmonists -- "Stormy Weather," "Night and Day," "Tea for Two," "Whistle While You Work," Duke Ellington's "Creole Love Call" and even a vocal "arrangement" of the overture to The Barber of Seville.
This is the second time in the past year that the Comedian Harmonists have been the subject of a play in the U.S. The Barry Manilow musical Harmony was given its world premiere at CA's La Jolla Playhouse in Oct. 1997, where it received mixed reviews. The show is being rewritten for Broadway in spring 1999.
In addition, another play about the Comedian Harmonists, Veronika, der Lenz ist da, is currently being performed at the Theatre am Kurfurstendamm in Berlin.
Also, a biographical musical film in German, Comedian Harmonists, opened on Feb. 14 at the Berlin Film Festival to favorable reviews from the international press.
The singing ensemble Hudson Shad is under the direction of Wilbur Pauley, an operatic bass who has performed character roles at the Metropolitan Opera and at New York City Opera (and who last season was in the AMTF world premiere production of the John Duffy-Joyce Carol Oates opera Black Water). The other members of Hudson Shad are Mark Bleeke, Tim Evans, Hugo Munday, Peter Becker and Robert Wolinsky. Also featured in Band in Berlin is Herb Rubens, who portrays the only surviving member of the Comedian Harmonists.
As for Visiting Mr. Green, Hal Linden, who took over for original, Drama Desk-nominated star Eli Wallach July 7, will stay with Mr. Green through Oct. 16. David Margulies (Angels in America, Conversations With My Father) joins the show two days later. Co-star in the two-hander Mitchell Anderson will continue with the production throughout its run. Visiting Mr. Green celebrated its 300th performance Aug. 19.
Hal Linden's roles have included Baron de Rothschild in a Broadway musical and Barney Miller on TV. Eli Wallach had been with the play since it tried out in March 1997 at Florida's Coconut Grove Playhouse and opened, Dec. 15, 1997, at the Union Square Theatre in New York.
The first full-length play by Jeff Baron, a writer for TV's "Tracy Ullman Show" and "Sisters," Visiting Mr. Green also helped net veteran actor Wallach the first annual Edith Oliver Award for "excellence Off Broadway."
Mitchell Anderson stars in TV's "Party of Five." His stage credits include Gross Indecency in L.A. and Flaubert's Latest at Off Broadway's Playwrights Horizons.
The Mr. Green of the title is a surly, 80s age widower living on NY's Upper West Side. Amiable Ross Gardiner intrudes on this setting -- by nearly running Mr. Green down with his car. Sentenced, as community service, to visit Green weekly for six months, Gardiner establishes an odd friendship with the old man.
Directing the Florida production and New York productions is Lonny Price, who staged The Springhill Singing Disaster, The Rothschilds and Juno Off Broadway. Costumes for Mr. Green are by Gail Brassard, lighting by Phil Monat (who also did the honors in Florida), and set by Loren Sherman.
There will be no performances on Sept. 29 at 8 PM and Sept. 30 at 2:30 PM, owing to the Yom Kippur holiday. Instead, shows will be added Sept. 28 at 8 PM and Oct. 4 at 7 PM