The Charles Strouse-Susan Birkenhead-Evan Hunter musical, The Night They Raided Minsky's, is looking to land on Broadway in March of 2000, with Mike Ockrent pegged as director and Susan Stroman choreographing.
Stroman shaped the dancing in the Broadway-bound London revival of Oklahoma! and was recently announced as the director of a new mounting of The Music Man. Ockrent directed Crazy For You and Big, both of which were also choreographed by Stroman.
Strouse is the author of such musicals as Annie and Bye Bye Birdie. Birkenhead's credits include Jelly's Last Jam, Triumph of Love and High Society. Librettist Hunter has penned a hundred suspense novelist under his own name and the pseudonym Ed McBain. He wrote the novel "The Blackboard Jungle" and the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds."
Asked about the project's progress, producer Timothy Childs told Playbill On-Line (Feb. 11), "The show is completely written. We're now doing micro-readings, not workshops or big presentations. We're inviting large potential investor-producers in groups of four or five to come to Susan's apartment, and the creative team sings the show for them around the dining room table. We've done three of these, with one or two more scheduled. The response has been just great. We did a full-score piano taping on Monday [Feb. 8] with six singers. On Tuesday we went into a studio and did five of the songs with a seven-piece band and six singers. Just wonderful. The score evokes that period of 1925 Lower East Side NY burlesque to a `t.' "
Childs and Terri Childs are producing, along with Jujamcyn. Budgeting hasn't been mapped out yet, but producer Childs expects financing to be "in the neighborhood of $8 million... Capitalization looks good, but it's tough getting a theatre confirmed; they're all booked. Still, we hope to go into rehearsal in December, then play out of town 4-6 weeks in late January February 2000, and come into Broadway March 2000. Though the musical shares the title of William Friedkin's 1968 film comedy (which starred Elliott Gould, Bert Lahr and Jason Robards), Childs stresses that apart from some character names and the milieu, the stage show is a different entity. Hunter and Ockrent conceived the piece, which has such characters as Billy Minsky, the producer of the burlesque revue; Mary Kaufman, who's on the committee for cultural decency; Otto Gross, chairman of that committee, and Joey Schrank, a bootlegger dating one of the dancers. Childs notes that although dealing with a time period several decades back, Minsky's remains relevant because, "There's a lot of parallels in the hypocrisy of this story to what we've been seeing in Washington in the past year or so."
According to Childs, the script has gone out to "a really big name," but no word on who or when casting decisions will be made.
Asked last year how she and her collaborators were faring on Minsky's, Birkenhead said, "All we do is laugh! We had a reading three weeks ago, and we should have a workshop up by the end of summer. Her favorite song so far? "It Could Have Been Worse," a comedic trio.
"It's a real `guy' thing," Birkenhead told Playbill On-Line back in October 1997. "I'm having the best time with these guys. It's so completely different from these other worlds. It's a funny, funny book."
Tentative songs and titles in the score include, "Words," "Poor Cleopatra, The Queen Of The Nile;" (a burlesque song) and "A Fraction Of An Inch."
-- By Robert Simonson and David Lefkowitz