PTC's 2007-08 season in Salt Lake City will launch in September with the world premiere of a revised version of the 1951 Lerner and Loewe musical that gave the world "I Talk to the Trees." The staging is being called a world-premiere pre-Broadway tryout (reflecting changes since a 2004 Los Angeles staging).
"We've been in discussions with commercial producer Christopher Allen for almost five years now about the possibility of producing a revised version of Paint Your Wagon as a potential jumping-off point for a national tour or Broadway revival," stated PTC's artistic director Charles Morey. "The fabulous songs from the original 1951 Broadway musical are still there, like 'They Call the Wind Maria' and 'I Talk to the Trees,' but the book and orchestrations have been revised significantly to solve some of the problems with the original story."
The writer of the revised book, David Rambo, has been involved with the project for several years. The playwright is a writer/producer on the hit TV series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."
Morey stated, "I love what he's done with the script. The new orchestrations are by Steve Orich, who was nominated for a Tony Award last year for his orchestrations for the Broadway hit Jersey Boys."
Paint Your Wagon runs at Pioneer Theatre Company Sept. 28-Oct. 13, 2007. *
In 2005, Playbill.com reported that producers Christopher Allen, D. Constantine Conte and Larry Spellman have been seeking a next-step production of their Broadway-aimed revised revival of Lerner and Loewe's Paint Your Wagon — a show about pioneers in the gold rush era.
Recognized for a potent score that includes "They Call the Wind Maria," "I Talk to the Trees," "Another Autumn" and "Wand'rin' Star," the Broadway musical is also known for its cumbersome libretto, an original tale of gold prospectors setting up camp in the Old West.
Within that original tale by Alan Jay Lerner, however, is a love affair between Jennifer Rumson, who is the daughter of a prospector, and a Mexican boy named Julio. That romance and some aspects of the musical were retained by new librettist Rambo for a fall 2004 test production of a revised script and score at Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Geffen producing director Gilbert Cates directed, Kay Cole choreographed. Steve Orich (Jersey Boys) was musical director and orchestrator.
Sharon Lawrence starred, playing a new character — a onetime actress named Lily, a love interest for prospector Ben Rumson.
Gil Cates, producing artistic director of Geffen Playhouse, is no longer attached as Paint Your Wagon's director.
"There's no doubt that the music is spectacular," Allen previously told Playbill.com. "We got permission from the estate to explore and retool the book. We knew that it was something that could be polished and revamped as something meaningful and timely for today's audience."
Allen said that late composer Frederick Loewe had gone on record saying Paint Your Wagon was his favorite score — in a career with lyricist Lerner that includes the beloved Brigadoon, My Fair Lady, Camelot and the film "Gigi" (and its stage version).
The "exploration" of the material in L.A. included some judicious cuts and interpolations for the 2004 Geffen staging. For example, "My Last Love," a song from the Lerner and Loewe flop What's Up?, was added to the score, for Lily; "Hand Me Down That Can o' Beans" was cut; and the title song from the Lerner and Loewe movie "The Little Prince" was borrowed and revised.
"We learned from the Geffen production," Allen said. "As a result of that, Pioneer Theatre in Utah came to us and was interested in mounting the next step…revising from what we learned in L.A."
Allen previously said he and his producing partners are talking with actor and country star Larry Gatlin (for the role of grizzled father Ben Rumson) and "American Idol" veteran Diana Degarmo (for Jennifer Rumson).
Allen previously said the cast will likely total 22-26.
Allen, a Las Vegas based produced who produced Beehive at the Luxor there, said a producer friend came to him with the idea of Paint Your Wagon. Like many people, he knew the title and some songs, but wasn't sold on the script. The lumbering film version, which has additional songs by Lerner and composer Andre Previn (and Clint Eastwood singing "I Talk to the Trees") does nothing to help the reputation of the property — the motion picture is widely considered to be a mess.
Yet, there is something in the property that grabs the American heart, Allen said. "There's something great about the energy and enthusiasm of the miners at that time," Allen said. "There's something about a men's chorus of 12-15 guys singing this wonderful music…"
And, he said, he's looking forward to a great designer bringing out some of the show's visual ideas — romance, the seasons, the land, the exploitation of nature and the optimism of the get-rich-quick (or die) pioneer life.
For more information, visit www.pioneertheatre.org.