Days before John Kander and Fred Ebb receive the Kennedy Center Honors for their songwriting work Dec. 6, the Illinois Theatre Center in Park Forest will open a revised version of their lesser-known 1971 musical, 70, Girls, 70, Dec. 4-20.
The script has been revised by David Thompson, drawing on the original libretto by Ebb and Norman L. Martin. Thompson penned the book to Kander and Ebb's Steel Pier and revised their Flora, the Red Menace for Off-Broadway.
Tom Roland, who understudied the role of Ben Franklin in the recent Roundabout Theatre Broadway production of 1776, will play Harry, the ex-vaudeville comic, in the musical about old folks who step out for a crime spree.
Chicago actress Etel Billig stars as Ida, the leader of the gang. Pete Thelen directs and choreographs a company that includes Jerry Bailey, Laura Collins, Judy McLaughlin, Pat Fitch, Jay Johnson, Margaret Kustermann, Kay Sue Nagle, Chester Munro and Peter Vamvakis.
70, Girls, 70 features such songs as "Old Folks," "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup," "Go Visit Your Grandmother" and "Yes." It originally starred Mildred Natwick and Hans Conried. The aging David Burns (Hello, Dolly!) died on the road of the 1971 out-of-town tryout, after collapsing in the wings. Kander and Ebb scored Cabaret, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman and many other musicals. Over & Over, their musical version of The Skin of Our Teeth opens Jan. 6, 1999 at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va. Their fellow Kennedy Center Honors recipients Dec. 6 are Andre Previn, Bill Cosby, Shirley Temple and Willy Nelson. The awards will be broadcast at a later date.
Illinois Theatre Center is at 400 Lakewood Blvd., in Park Forest, IL. For tickets, call (708) 481-3510.
-- By Kenneth Jones