Musical Summer of `42 Due at OB's Variety Arts, Dec. 11

News   Musical Summer of `42 Due at OB's Variety Arts, Dec. 11 After months of juggling and decision making, the producers of Summer of '42 have further firmed up their Off-Broadway plans: the new musical will start previews at the Variety Arts Theatre Dec. 11 for an opening there Jan. 10, 2002. As previously announced, The show will first try out at CT's Stamford Center for the Arts, Nov. 15-28.

After months of juggling and decision making, the producers of Summer of '42 have further firmed up their Off-Broadway plans: the new musical will start previews at the Variety Arts Theatre Dec. 11 for an opening there Jan. 10, 2002. As previously announced, The show will first try out at CT's Stamford Center for the Arts, Nov. 15-28.

The show's producers announced the Variety Arts venue to group sales marketers last week, days before word came that the theatre's current tenant, Reefer Madness, had posted a closing notice for Oct. 28. (Though TeleCharge confirms the closing date, a Reefer Madness spokesperson at the Richard Kornberg office told Playbill On-Line Oct. 24 the shuttering is not confirmed, and the producers are still deciding that show's fate.)

Summer of `42 co-producer Mitchell Maxwell (Momentum Productions) told Playbill On-Line Aug. 16 the New York run would feature the same cast that played in the show's last gig (June 23-July 15 at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, CA), including Kate Jennings Grant and Ryan Driscoll as the leads. Also in the cast are Brett Tabisel (Big), Celia Keenan-Bolger, Bill Kux, Jason Marcus, Greg Stone, Megan Valerie Walker and Erin Webley.

Budgeted at $1.5 million, the production is expected to be an open run. The Maxwells are producing with Robert Eckert and Kumiko Yoshii, in association with Fred H. Krones & James Simon, as well as Stamford Center for the Arts.

* Following a summer 2000 premiere run at Goodspeed-at-Chester/The Norma Terris Theatre in Connecticut, a midwest premiere at the Victoria Theatre in Dayton, OH (Oct. 10-22, 2000), several weeks off to regroup and the aforementioned West Coast run, the creative and production staffers for Summer of '42 had previously announced that the show would have a mini-tour, stopping in Stamford and then Boston on its way to Broadway. The Boston dates were nixed, and the show will instead reach an Off Broadway house.

Goodspeed Musicals produced the Ohio run of Summer, with its previous set and cast intact, including Idina Menzel as a Maine war bride Dorothy, who teaches 15-year-old Hermie (newcomer Driscoll) a bittersweet lesson in love. Driscoll is still with the production, but the lead is now played by Jennings Grant. Gabriel Barre (Cinderella, the Off-Broadway Wild Party) directs and choreographs. Designing the show are James Youmans (set), Pamela Scofield (costumes), Tim Hunter (lighting) and Acme Sound Partners (sound). Lynne Shankel serves as musical director and also penned the orchestrations and vocal arrangements, according to production spokespersons at the Springer/Chicoine office.

The Ohio booking was the first time the show faced critics. (As a developmental space, Goodspeed-at-Chester has a gentleman's agreement with critics allowing the works-in-progress to go unreviewed, despite a tendency toward sold-out houses and star names.) Observers have suggested the comic and gently nostalgic musical could have a huge life regionally, the same way Nunsense, Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, Over the Tavern, The Foreigner, The Nerd, The Immigrant and other works became mini-industries.

Designers for the Dayton, Palo Alto and upcoming New York run are Timothy Hunter (lighting), James Youmans (set) and Pamela Scofield (costumes). Lynne Shankel is musical director. The cast also included Brett Tabisel, a Tony Award nominee for Big, as Hermie's pal, Oscy; Jason Marcus as Benjie; Matt Farnsworth as Pete; Jeanne Goodman as Gloria; Celia Keenan-Bolger as Aggie; Bill Kux as Walter Winchell/Mr. Sanders; Megan Walker as Miriam.

Composer-lyricist David Kirshenbaum and librettist Hunter Foster based their show on the 1971 film by screenwriter-author Herman Raucher and his earlier novel of the same name. Though critics were lukewarm, Robert Mulligan's 1971 film, "Summer of '42," became a big box office draw, with new star Jennifer O'Neill and composer Michel LeGrand receiving special attention.

The stage show's developmental world-premiere run in Chester, CT, played Aug. 10-Sept. 10, 2000. There, audiences cheered the comic and rueful musical so much that an extra week was added to the original run. During the Connecticut run, the creators of the new musical made changes and refinements to their show, cutting one song and adding a new one. The writers were in residence during the run. Kirshenbaum told PBOL (Dec. 29, 2000), "We couldn't have been happier in terms of audience response and industry observers in the two productions so far." By the end of the Norma Terris run, "Losing Track of Time," which has been recorded by Alice Ripley, was moved from Act Two to Act One and a new tune, "Our Story So Far," has been added to Act Two, for the war-bride character, Dorothy. A number for her called "Less Than Perfect" was cut.

Songs in the show have included "Someone To Dance With Me," "Will That Ever Happen To Me?" and the solo for Dorothy, "Losing Track of Time" (which has been recorded).

Manhattan and regional readings of Summer of '42 preceded the Goodspeed staging. The tuner had readings in New York City and Ann Arbor, MI, in 1999. Nick Corley staged previous readings of Summer of '42.

*

Producer Mitchell Maxwell caused rumbles in the theatre community last season owing to reports of money troubles and bounced checks towards the end of the run of Momentum Productions' flop Broadway revival of Bells Are Ringing.

Answering lingering questions about the Bells Are Ringing money troubles, Maxwell said at the time, "The issue that made the paper, about certain payroll checks being bounced, was unfairly reported. The company was issued new checks, and all the bonded people — in the theatrical and other unions — have been paid in full."

Despite the unpleasant ring left by Bells' finale, Maxwell said he's not finished with the tuner. "We're hoping to do a tour in September 2002," he told PBOL, though star Faith Prince may not be part of that equation. "It's cast-sensitive. If we'd had a longer run in New York or if Faith had won the Tony, it'd be different. But without the success we felt we merited in New York, we have to really look at how we package the tour." Maxwell again confirmed (August 2001) that the tour plans were being considered for 2002.

As for Summer of `42, director Barre had told the New York Post that the company is "trying to remain undistracted by anything to do with business" and that the producer had "so far maintained integrity in every aspect of his involvement in this piece."

— By David Lefkowitz
and Kenneth Jones