Characters in the classic American play, Dinner at Eight, will sing for their supper in a new musical version of the 1932 George S. Kaufman Edna Ferber drama, currently in rehearsals toward a Feb. 8-10 presentation.
Three private, industry-only performances will be presented, offering insiders an initial look at the new piece, penned by librettist Julie Gilbert, lyricist Frank Evans and composer Ben Schaechter. Per Actors' Equity this is not a "workshop" but a "Equity approved presentation," with Broadway and New York talent, including Tovah Feldshuh in the role of faded stage star Carlotta Vance.
The soapy comedy-drama (later an M-G-M picture) tells overlapping stories of guests invited to and preparing for dinner at Millicent and Oliver Jordan's. She's neurotic, he's losing his fortune, and their daughter is having an affair with a depressed, faded matinee idol who is just a trigger-pull away from oblivion.
Bick Goss directs the private staging, produced by The Century Center for the Performing Arts (J.C. Compton, artistic director, Ralph Odom, managing director), in association with Gilford-Freely Productions and Silent Partner Productions.
The presentation cast includes Bob Ari as Dan Packard, Amanda Butterbaugh as Kitty Packard, Andy Gale as Oliver Jordan, Laura Griffith as Paula Jordan, Adam Heller as Ed Loomis, Fredric Marco as Dr. Wayne Talbot, Charles Pistone as Larry Renault, Lauren Rubem as Helen Copeland, Jane Smulyan as Mrs. Heidi Wendel, Steve Sterner as Gavin Hatfield, Mary Stout as Hattie Loomis, Deborah Tranelli as Millicent Jordan and Feldshuh as Carlotta Vance. The original play was embraced as literate and human, but the Depression helped shorten its run to 232 performances in the 1932-33 season. Sam H. Harris produced at the Music Box Theatre.
Coincidentally, Feldshuh is expected to appear in a reading for another in-progress musical based on a Kaufman-Ferber comedy, 1927's The Royal Family.
William Finn penned music and lyrics for The Royal Family of Broadway, and Richard Greenberg (Eastern Standard) wrote the book. Jerry Zaks directs, Scott Wise choreographs and Barry and Fran Weissler produce the three-week workshop, which begins in early February and culminates in a private reading later in the month. Laura Benanti, Carolee Carmello, Elaine Stritch and Feldshuh are in the cast.
-- By Kenneth Jones