Rita Gardner, Off-Broadway's first Luisa in The Fantasticks, is Miss Havisham in Goodspeed Musicals' presentation of the new musical, Great Expectations, getting a full production Aug. 2-26 at the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT.
Novelist John Jakes ("The Kent Family Chronicles") penned the book and lyrics to this version of the Charles Dickens classic, about Pip (played by Michael Winther) and his hope to be a gentleman in London after escaping the clutches of the creepy Miss Havisham. Mel Marvin (Elmer Gantry, Tintypes) wrote the music. Kent Thompson, artistic director of Alabama Shakespeare Festival, directs and Janet Watson (Goodspeed's Mirette) choreographs.
The Norma Terris is the developmental venue of Goodspeed Musicals, where new works are tested and tweaked in front of an audience. As a rare courtesy, newspaper critics do not review the shows, despite the full production values, Equity casts and top ticket price of $32.
Terence Goodman plays Joe, William Ryall is Jaggers, Rachael Warren is Estella. Winther appeared on Broadway in 1776 and in the New York premiere of Hapgood and Artist Descending a Staircase. Gardner also appeared on Broadway in Kiss of the Spider Woman and 1776.
The company includes Elizabeth Arnold, Robert Aronson (Magwitch), Ben Arvan, Cary Barker, Ben Baxley (Young Herbert), Andrew Blau (Young Pip), Jason Dula, David Heuvelman, Jamie Jackson, Ken Krugman, Jamey McGaugh, Jonathan Prager, Annah Rozelle (Young Estella), Brooks Rozelle (The Boy), Colin Stokes, Kirsten Witsman and Kristin Woodbury. Paul J. Ascenzo is musical director. Designers are Emily Beck (sets), Pamela Scofield (costumes) and Mark Stanley (lighting).
Talkbacks between audience and members of the creative team will be held Aug. 9, 16 and 23. For ticket information, call (860) 873-8668 or visit www.goodspeed.org.
— By Kenneth Jones