John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joseph Stein's musical, Over & Over, their version of Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth, has been rewritten and renamed Skin of Our Teeth, the Musical, according to librettist Stein.
The collaborators have been working with director Gabriel Barre toward a future production, and a commercial producer is attached to the show, Stein said.
Unhappy with the 1999 Signature Theatre staging in Arlington, VA, the writers went back to the drawing board and in spring 2002 presented a Barre-directed reading at Manhattan Theatre Club. "We were all very happy with the reading," Stein said. Although MTC isn't taking the show forward, the script and score are in other producers' hands now.
"We changed the name to something very original," Stein quipped. "We call it Skin of Our Teeth, the Musical, without the original 'the.' People say that's what [the show] is anyway, so I said, 'The hell with it!' We've been working with Gabe for some months now. We're working out a deal with a producer. It's going through those usual pre-production steps."
Another reading is expected, but Stein said there is no immediate timeline for a production. "The Virginia version was — I hate to use the word 'fiasco' — but I think it was badly mishandled," Stein said. "Characters were added which I felt were unnecessary. It just didn't work properly, but we saw what was wrong, and I think we fixed it."
A character, Lulu Shriner, was added to the story in Virginia, where Dorothy Loudon played her. She does not figure into the rewrite.
"We based it on a damn good play," Stein said. "I made a lot of changes, and the third act of the play practically doesn't exist in the musical. Basically, the line of the play, we have kept. And the three major characters we have kept intact. We made the changes that will improve it for a contemporary audience. It has a much more contemporary feel than the play."
With composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz, Stein is currently revising The Baker's Wife for a revival at Goodspeed Musicals' Norma Terris Theatre (Nov. 7-Dec. 1) in Chester, CT. At Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT, meanwhile, Barre is directing King of Hearts (now through Dec. 15).
Stein (Rags, Fiddler on the Roof, Zorba) penned the libretto of Skin of Our Teeth, drawing on the 1942 Pulitzer Prize-winning Wilder play, about a typical American family, the Antrobuses, as it faces the cataclysms of world history.
Over & Over (the earlier title) had its world premiere Jan. 6, 1999, under the direction of Eric Schaeffer at the 136-seat Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA. In fall 2001, composer Kander told Playbill On-Line he and his collaborators were still refining the project.
The premiere had some big names attached to it: Dorothy Loudon as Lulu Shriner (and others) and choreographer Bob Avian (A Chorus Line) among them. Songwriters Kander and Ebb scored Cabaret, Chicago, Zorba, Kiss of the Spider Woman and more. Their latest effort was a musical version of The Visit, which premiered in fall 2001 at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago, and is said to be aiming for a New York staging in 2003-04.
In Over & Over, Sherie Scott, a rising actress who had played Amneris in Disney's tryout of Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida and later starred in the revision, Aida, had the plum role of Sabina, maid to the Antrobus household in the absurdism-flecked story. Scott (who is now known as Sherie Rene Scott and stars in Off-Broadway's Debbie Does Dallas) replaced Bebe Neuwirth in rehearsals Dec. 21, 1998, just two weeks before the Jan. 6 first show of the sold-out premiere run.
Sabina is the maid and narrator in the 1942 play. In Wilder's allegory for human resilience, the Antrobus family survives disasters and dramatic changes of Biblical proportions. Also in the 1999 company were Linda Emond (Mrs. Antrobus), David Garrison (Mr. Antrobus), Megan Lawrence (Gladys), Jim Newman (Henry), Mario Cantone (Bob), Sharon Wilkins (Fortune Teller), Lawrence Redmond (Socrates), Hugh Nees (Homer), Thomas Adrian Simpson (Moses), Bruce Nelson (Jesus), Richard Pelzman (Mammoth), Karl Christian, Kenneth J. Ewing Jr., Daniel Felton, Jason Gilbert, Marc Oka, R. Scott Thompson, Johanna Gerry, Erika Lynn Rupli, Jennifer Swiderski.
Over & Over had a reading in spring 1998 in New York City under Schaeffer's direction, with Michele Pawk as Sabina. Bernadette Peters played Sabina in an earlier reading, not associated with Signature.
The Signature staging was another chance for producers and artists to present a new work "under the radar" at a small venue off the beaten path.
The songlist of Over & Over as of the Feb. 3, 1999, press performance included the following numbers. Some changes are naturally expected.
"Eat the Ice Cream" Sabina
"Sabina!" Mrs. Antrobus
"He Always Comes Home to Me" Mrs. Antrobus
"Telegram No. 1" Telegram Boy
"We're Home" Gladys & Henry
"The Wheel" Mr. Antrobus
"Someday, Pasadena" Sabina & Men
"A Whole Lotta Lovin' " Wisemen
"Abou Ben Adhem" Gladys
"The Library" Mrs. Antrobus
"Rain" Fortune Teller
"As You Are" Mrs. Antrobus, Mrs. Antrobus
"Beauty Contest" Bathing Beauties
"This Life" Elsa Fitt & The Bathing Beauties
"You Owe It to Yourself" Sabina
"Nice People" Henry
"The Promise" Mrs. Antrobus
"The Promise (Reprise)" Mr.Antrobus
"Rain (Reprise)" Fortune Teller
"Military Man" Lulu Shriner, Bob Corleone & Soldiers
"Lullaby" Gladys & Mrs. Antrobus
"Telegram No. 2" Telegram Boy
"Home" Mrs. Antrobus & Sabina
"Nice People (Reprise)" Henry
"The Skin of Our Teeth" Mr. Antrobus
"Antrobus Waltz" Mr. Antrobus & Mrs. Antrobus
"At the Rialto" Sabina
— By Kenneth Jones