While New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse gears up for the Sept. 20 opening of Gypsy, with Betty Buckley and Deborah Gibson, changes have been made to two shows on the 1998-99 season schedule. A production of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's The Man Who Came To Dinner was supposed to run Jan. 6-Feb. 14, 1999, but the comedy was scratched because the star Paper Mill wanted has been ill. Instead, a new revuesical, Up Up And Away: The Songs of Jimmy Webb, conceived & directed by artistic director Robert Johanson, will take Dinner's place. The show, still in development, will feature such Webb songs as "MacArthur Park," "Galveston," "Up Up And Away," "Didn't We" and "Wichita Lineman."
After the Feb. 24-Apr. 3, 1999 mounting of Charlotte Bronte's Wuthering Heights, adapted for the stage by Paper Mill artistic director, Robert Johanson, Paper Mill was supposed to revive La Cage aux Folles (Apr. 14-May 30, 1999), with composer Jerry Herman "tinkering a bit" with this version. Reportedly, Herman's had creative differences with librettist/lyricist Harvey Fierstein, and the show has now been cancelled with no plans to reschedule. Paper Mill spokesperson Dennis Dougherty (reached Sept. 16) was unable to comment on reasons for the cancellation. Lee Roy Reams, who recently appeared in Herman's Broadway career retrospective, was to star in La Cage.
Arriving instead at Paper Mill, Apr. 14-May 30, 1999, will be Ken Ludwig's new old-fashioned Gershwin musical, Crazy For You, with no director yet chosen.
Finishing the Paper Mill Playhouse season (June 9-July 18, 1999) is Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice's biblical pop musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
* As for the highly-anticipated Buckley/Gibson Gypsy, rehearsals started Aug. 20 and previews began Sept. 9 for a run through Oct. 25. The classic musical features lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, a book by Arthur Laurents and music by Jule Styne.
Joining Buckley's Mama Rose and Gibson's Louise (aka Gypsy Rose Lee) are Laura Bell Bundy, who starred in the Off-Broadway spoofical, Ruthless!, and Lenny Wolpe, who played the title role in the musical Mayor.
Bundy plays Dainty June; Wolpe, who regularly guest stars on such TV shows as "Working," "Murphy Brown" and "Mad About You," will play Herbie.
As for the three strippers, all three have done their roles professionally before: Dorothy Stanley plays Tessie Tura, Jana Robbins plays Mazeppa, and Anna McNeely lights up Electra. Stanley, who starred in Broadway's Annie and Off-Broadway's Dames At Sea, replaced Faith Prince in Jerome Robbins' Broadway -- where Stanley got to play Tessie Tura. Stanley most recently appeared in Broadway's High Society.
Both Robbins (Buckley's standby) and McNeely starred in the Tyne Daly Gypsy revival on Broadway. McNeely, currently in Beauty and the Beast, also played Electra in the Bette Midler telemovie of Gypsy.
Ensemble members include Lori Alexander, Jeremy Bohmstein, Erica Anne Bossman, Tesha Buss, Barry Cavanaugh, Scott Davidson, Darin DePaul, John Flynn, Donald Grody, Daren Kelly, Alexandra Kiesman, Zach Manzella, Brian J. Marcum, Robert Nunez, Went Odom, Laura Oseland, Meredith Patterson, Mia Price, Ivy Risser, Vonnie Roemer, Bill Rolon, Casey Ross, Allison Siko, Jeffrey Songco and Thom Christopher Warren.
Styne & Sondheim's classic musical officially opens the New Jersey theatre's 1998-99 season Sept. 20. According to Paper Mill spokesperson Dennis Dougherty, Mark Waldrop co-writer and director of When Pigs Fly, will direct Gypsy. He also staged Three of Hearts, with Faith Prince and Mary Rodgers, at Rainbow and Stars.
Liza Gennaro (The Most Happy Fella) will choreograph Gypsy, which will have sets by Michael Anania, costumes by Michael Bottari & Ronald Case, and lighting by Mark Stanley.
Buckley previously starred as Mama Rose in a 1992 production of Gypsy at the Southern Arizona Light Opera Company. Patti LuPone, star of the recently shuttered Broadway production of David Mamet's The Old Neighborhood, had also been in the running for the role, but according to spokesperson Jim Byk (of the Richard Kornberg office), she had another, non-theatre commitment that took her out of the running.
Following Gypsy at Paper Mill will be a new version (Nov. 4-Dec. 13) of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by David Levy & Leslie Eberhard (book & lyrics) with music by Phil Hall. Starring will be Richard White, Marc Kudisch (High Society), Glory Crampton (Off-Broadway's Carnival) and Judy McLane. This adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson thriller is not connected to the Frank Wildhorn currently at Broadway's Plymouth Theatre. Philip Wm. McKinley directs.
Robert Johanson is artistic director of the Paper Mill Playhouse, the official state theatre of New Jersey. Musicals previously revived at the Millburn theatre include South Pacific, Show Boat and Gigi; newer works include Chess, Phantom, Jane Eyre and Comfortable Shoes.
For tickets and information on Paper Mill Playhouse shows, call (973) 379-3636.