Penny Fuller, last seen Off-Broadway in A.R. Gurney's Ancestral Voices and as the compulsive mom in A New Brain, stars as Leona in the revised "chamber version" of the 1965 musical, Do I Hear A Waltz, opening Oct. 13 (after beginning previews Oct. 9) at New Jersey's George Street Playhouse. The 1965 Richard Rodgers-Stephen Sondheim-Arthur Laurents musical is scheduled to run through Nov. 14. George Street artistic director Saint directs.
Though not a completely new version of the show, as previously reported, this "work-in-progress" Waltz does have a revised book by Laurents, some added and "retailored" lyrics by Sondheim, and a restored song -- "Everybody Loves Leona." Sources say the producers hope to incubate the piece and keep the production low key, allowing it time to take shape rather than thrusting it instantly into the media spotlight.
The plot of Waltz revolves around Leona Samish, a lonely schoolteacher who splurges her life savings on a trip to Venice. Once there, she finds plenty of love and passion ... but only between other couples. Her one friend is a young boy who shows her the city's sights and offers a sympathetic ear for her woes. Finally, she meets the man of her dreams, an antique shop owner named Renato, with whom she falls desperately in love -- until she finds out he's married. Leona returns home with a greater understanding of love itself and fond memories of a man who taught her not to settle for less than she deserves.
The original production, which ran 220 performances at the 46th Street Theatre, starred Elizabeth Allen, Carol Bruce and Sergio Franchi. George Street's Waltz will feature Fuller as Leona and Charles Cioffi (Chinese Coffee opposite Al Pacino) as Renato. Also in the NJ cast are Lynn Cohen, Luce Ennis, Robert Levine, Todd Gearhart, Anna Belknap, Carla Bianco, Nick Potenzieri and Nick Cutro.
Designing the show are James Youmans (set), Theoni V. Aldredge (costumes) and Howell Binkley (lighting). Sean Patrick Flahaven, associate editor of "The Sondheim Review" magazine, serves as musical director. His new orchestrations for the score are composed to capture the sound of an authentic Italian street band. Do I Hear A Waltz?, a musical adaptation of Laurents' play, The Time of the Cuckoo, marked the only collaboration between musical theatre legends Rodgers and Sondheim. Although Sondheim was nominated for a Tony for his lyrics, Waltz was the last time he wrote lyrics for someone else's music for Broadway (although he later wrote lyrics under a nom de plume to Rodgers' daughter Mary's music in an Off Broadway revue). Sondheim had previously written lyrics for other composers, including Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story and Jule Styne on Gypsy, but he'd already had composed two musicals of his own with Anyone Can Whistle, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Songs in Do I Hear A Waltz? include the title tune, "What Do We Do? We Fly!", "Moon in My Window," "Stay," "Here We Are Again" and "Thank You So Much."
As for the rest of the six-play George Street season, artistic director Saint will follow his staging of Waltz by directing Anne Meara's new play, Down The Garden Paths. Saint forged a strong relationship with Meara when he directed the New York, Los Angeles and NJ mountings of her acclaimed After-Play.
A comedy-drama, Garden will grow Nov. 20-Dec. 19 (in place of the previously-scheduled The Last Night of Ballyhoo). Theatrical twosome Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, most recently seen together in the springtime run of Tennessee Williams Remembered, will star in the piece, which also features an on-film cameo by Meara's real-life husband, Jerry Stiller, playing a quantum physicist. Further casting is expected shortly for this story of a family gathering to celebrate the latest novel by an award winning author.
€ Allan Knee's Syncopation will receive its world premiere at George Street in a production starring Mark Nelson, Jan. 8-Feb 6, 2000. After working with The George Street last year, Nelson returns for this world premiere play.
€ Terrence McNally's Master Class will star Rita Moreno in a production directed by David Saint, Feb. 12-March 19, 2000. McNally's Class revolves around Maria Callas teaching students her lessons after her stellar career has begun to fade. Moreno starred in the movie version of "West Side Story." Other plays by McNally include Corpus Christi and The Ritz.
€ Joe Orton's classic farce, Loot, will play next on the George Street Mainstage, March 25-April 23, 2000. Loot, one of Orton's later plays, won London's Evening Standard Award for Best Play in 1967. The comedy exposes five characters whose interactions revolve around a dead body, a coffin, and a lot of stolen money.
A sixth production, running April 29-May 28, 2000, has yet to be announced.
For tickets and information on the George Street Playhouse season call (732) 246-7717.