Manhattan and regional readings of the new musical, The Summer of '42, have apparently paid off for librettist Hunter Foster and composer-lyricist David Kirshenbaum: The tuner will be staged at Goodspeed-at-Chester in Nov. 16-Dec. 10.
The Chester, CT, developmental venue of the prestigious Goodspeed Opera House (of East Haddam, CT) doesn't allow reviewers in, but provides a platform for new work to be tested in a full staging in front of an audience. Rehearsals begin Oct. 24 under the direction of Gabriel Barre.
The musicalization of the coming-of-age film, about a teenager and a war widow, had readings in New York City and Ann Arbor, MI, in 1999. Foster is an actor who appeared in Footloose and the recent Grease! revival. David Kirshenbaum wrote Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.
Two more new musicals will be presented in the Chester 2000 2001 season. Goodspeed is the organization that gave early voice to a musical called Annie.
* This developing Summer of '42 musical joins a list of film-based stage musicals such as Big, Saturday Night Fever, Footloose and The Lion King, with Thoroughly Modern Millie and Hans Christian Andersen also on the way.
Attached to previous readings were Alice Ripley (Side Show, Sunset Boulevard), her Sunset co-star Alan Campbell, and Footloose lead Jeremy Kushnier. Ripley recorded "Losing Track of Time," a song from Summer of '42, on her recent album, "Unsuspecting Hearts."
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 story told of a 15-year-old boy, Hermie, drawn into a relationship with Dorothy, a beautiful war-bride.
Nick Corley staged previous readings of Summer of '42.
Songs in the show include "Someone To Dance With Me," "Will That Ever Happen To Me?" and the solo for Dorothy, "Losing Track of Time."
Asked about how Summer came into fruition, composer-lyricist Kirshenbaum told Playbill On-Line (May 3, 1999), "It was Hunter Foster's idea, and we've been working on it just over a year in earnest. He and I went to the University of Michigan together. In fact, he had a lead role in the first musical I ever wrote. Anyway, he had the idea, and I said, `if you can get the rights to it, go ahead,' figuring these things are impossibly complicated. Hunter's lawyer approached [screenwriter] Herman Raucher's lawyers, and in a month we had the rights. We started working on it February of last year and held a private reading for ourselves in March."
Asked what he felt was special about the material, Kirshenbaum said, "It's a memory play. People remember the movie's nostalgic element, the relationship between Dorothy and Hermie, but I think the piece is more about loss. It's very touching. Through this first love of his life, Hermie goes through every kind of emotion you can experience in a relationship. Of course, it's also very funny."
-- By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz