Michele Pawk, Steve Blanchard, Joanna Glushak, Rob Evan and Kirk McDonald will star in two invitation-only readings, Nov. 14 and 15, of a new musical based on the cult classic western, "Johnny Guitar."
The show, with the campy title, Johnny Guitar-The Lounge Western, features a book by Nicholas van Hoogstraten, lyrics and music by Joel Higgins, and music by Martin Silvestri.
The 1954 film, directed in blinding Technicolor by Nicholas Ray ("Rebel Without a Cause"), featured Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge in two notorious, over the top performances. Crawford is Vienna, the keeper of a saloon and gambling emporium on the edge of a frontier town. McCambridge is Emma Small, the shrill Puritanical leader of a gang of townies dead set on running Vienna and her pals out of town. Sterling Hayden is the title cowpoke, once Vienna's paramour, now her protector. The film featured Crawford at her most manneristic and stands as one of the few westerns in which the men take a backseat to the female characters.
Bookwriter van Hoogstraten told Playbill On-Line the show is arch, but not camp. "You're gilding the lily if you make it camp." The songs, which include "Branded a Tramp," "Tell Me a Lie" and "Johnny Guitar," smack of the 1950s Hollywood western music sound of "Rawhide" and "Ghost Riders in the Sky."
This is the first musical for van Hoogstraten, who wrote the theatre history book, "Lost Broadway Theatres." The creative team hopes for an Off-Broadway production sometime in the future. Pawk, currently in Broadway's Hollywood Arms, will play Vienna. Blanchard is Johnny and Glushak, now in Urinetown, is Emma.
The company of the reading also includes David Sinkus, Ed Sala, Carson Church, Kenny Brescia, Ray Kilday, Jim Mironchik and Jeff Potter.
—By Robert Simonson