It may not have the hipness of Hedwig or the plaudits of Wit, but the gentle Off-Broadway comedy Over The River and Through the Woods shares with those productions something just as important: longevity. Whereas more celebrated shows have come and gone over the past year and a half, Joe DiPietro's play keeps saying hurrah for the fun.
Over the River celebrated its one-year anniversary Oct. 5, 1999 and reaches its next milestone -- performance number 600 -- Sunday evening, March 12. Spokespersons for the show at Bill Evans & Associates note that DiPietro's comedy will reach eleven American cities and three foreign countries in the year ahead.
Ken Garito ("Summer of Sam") plays the lead character, a young man with two sets of meddling grandparents. Garito's New York stage credits include Conversations With My Father and Tony n' Tina's Wedding.
Other cast members in River include Allen Swift (the voice of vintage TV character Howdy Doody) as Grandpa Nunzio, Marie Lillo, Marsha Dietlein (recently taking over for Heather Raffo), Vera Lockwood and John LaGioia.
Over The River concerns a grandson who gets career and dating advice from two sets of Italian-American grandparents. When writing the play, DiPietro drew on his relationships with his four grandparents. DiPietro's no stranger to a long run; his musical with composer Jimmy Roberts, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, is now in its fourth year at the Westside Theatre. Upcoming projects for the playwright include penning a new book for the George Gershwin musical, Oh, Kay!.
Over the River and Through the Woods, directed by Joel Bishoff, began previews Sept. 18, 1998 and opened Oct. 5 of that year. Jonathan Pollard, Bernie Kukoff, Tony Converse and the late James Hammerstein are the co-producers.
Over the River performances play every day but Thursday at the John Houseman Theatre, 450 West 42nd St. Call (212) 239-6200 for ticket information.
In other River news, the casts and directors have been picked for a regional mounting of the show at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Craig Noel, executive director at the Globe, will mark his 65th year in southern California theatre by directing the comedy, which opens March 30 in the Globe's second space. Marion Ross, who last worked with Noel in 1973, stars. Both Ross and Noel attended San Diego State University and have gone on to illustrious careers in theatre. Ross was also a regular on two TV series, "Happy Days" and "Brooklyn Bridge."
Others in the CA cast include Christine Brown, Laura James, Paul Michael, Matthew Troncone and Sam Vlahos. The run is through April 30.
-- By David Lefkowitz