Plays Are Signed in Ink, Not Set in Stone; Millie Writer Scanlan Imagines "Tweaks" for Road

Tony Awards   Plays Are Signed in Ink, Not Set in Stone; Millie Writer Scanlan Imagines "Tweaks" for Road You only have to look at the number of "revisals" — revivals with revised scripts — to understand that literature for the theatre is not set in stone, but rather something that has to breathe.

You only have to look at the number of "revisals" — revivals with revised scripts — to understand that literature for the theatre is not set in stone, but rather something that has to breathe.

In order to make theatre a living art, sometimes you need to reconsider a script. The Broadway-bound production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song has a new libretto by David Henry Hwang, for example; the 2002 Tony Award nominee for Best Play, Fortune's Fool, is adapted by Mike Poulton from a 19th-century Turgenev play (it's considered a new work because it hasn't played Broadway in any form); and the 2002 Best Revival (Musical) nominee, Into the Woods, had rewrites and reconsiderations by composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim and librettist James Lapine.

Dick Scanlan, the 2002 Tony Award nominee for Best Score (shared with Jeanine Tesori) and Best Book (shared with the late Richard Morris), agrees scripts for the theatre need to be liquid. Just a month after Millie opened at the Marquis Theatre, can he can imagine "tweaks" to the work?

"I wrote a novel, and I can't imagine going back into that and rewriting it, but Millie, I'm almost certain when we prepare the road company next spring, I bet there will be changes," Scanlan said. "First of all, the set will be slightly modified, which in a musical really does change the writing because of transitional things. But substantively there's one or two things I look at that I could rethink a bit. There are moments where I think I can make it a little snappier, a little better. It's close to a finished piece of literature, but I can imagine little tweaks here and there."

That's not to say that Scanlan, Tesori, director Michael Mayer and choreographer Rob Ashford (who are all Tony nominees this year) sat around in recent months. "We did a tremendous amount of work in previews," Scanlan said. "We froze it on a Monday, and the critics came Tuesday. It was incredibly intense, but we really worked as one. It was so unified. There were never any 'camps' — one group wanting to do this, one group wanting to do that. We knew we had X number of hours left, and said, 'Let's go do it.' I'm delighted. Audiences are eating it up."