Goodtime Charley, a musical comedy retelling of the Joan of Arc-Charles VII of France story that had a brief life on Broadway in the 1974-1975 season, gets an Off-Off-Broadway showcase revival Sept. 6-22 at the ArcLight Theatre in Manhattan.
Composer Larry Grossman and lyricist Hal Hackady are adding new material to the rarely-revived cult piece, which has gained new fans with the recent CD re-release of the original cast album. Joel Grey and Ann Reinking starred as Charles VII, the Dauphin of France, and Joan, respectively. The musical tells how Joan gave the boyish, hedonistic prince the strength to ascend the throne of France in the 1400s. The tuner was nominated for seven Tony Awards, but not in the categories of Best Musical or Best Score.
The book is by Sidney Michaels. The show emerged during a time when quirky pop retellings of Biblical tales, myths and royal stories were part of a mini-trend on Broadway, with Jesus Christ Superstar, Pippin and Godspell surfacing in the 1970s. Did anyone ever think Joan of Arc and the Dauphin would be singing a comedy song about fitting together a suit of armor as if were a Tinker Toy set? It happened in Goodtime Charley. The show did not get good reviews, but the odd mix of seriousness and whimsy — and the obvious craft of the songs by Grossman and Hackady — still intrigue musical theatre buffs. The songwriters penned the score to Broadway's Minnie's Boys, about The Marx Brothers.
A new song, "This Isn't Happening," is being added to end the first act. "It's when Charley's being pushed into the church for his coronation, and he's blaming Joan," Hackady told Playbill On-Line. "The two villains, the Archbishop and the General, are blaming each other for letting it happen. 'There goes the country,' they say."
Hackady said when originally conceived, the show was more about Joan and the Dauphin, and it was called Charley and Joan. Alan Jay Lerner saw a developmental performance and suggested they call it Goodtime Charley. Hackady went off and wrote a title lyric. When Joel Grey was cast as Charley, the show further became a star vehicle. The show is done occasionally in stock and amateur theatres. Hackady said he was surprised the producers pulled the plug after 100 or so performances and seven Tony Award nominations (yet not one for score). "I thought we were building to a very good audience," Hackady said.
Grossman is currently involved in the development of a Tom Jones musical, and Hackady wrote lyrics to Whatever Happened the Baby Jane?, the musical, set to premiere in Houston in June 2002.
The new staging is produced by Tweiss Productions (Eileen B. Weiss and Sharon Weiss) in an Off-Off-Broadway showcase contract. Bryan D. Leys directs. Steve Liebman is musical director. Karen Oster choreographs. The cast includes Daniel Reichard as Charley, Camille Diamond as Joan of Arc, Ted Bouton as Minguet, Kelli Maguire as Agnes, Steve Liebman as the Archbishop, Peter Waldren as The General and ensemble of Anna Bergman, Rachel Burrows, Kelly Famolaro, Jason Watkins, Scott Sowinski and Rick Cutler.
Designers are Rob Odorisio (set consultant), John-Paul Szczepanski (lighting consultant), Kimberly Matela (costumes).
Tickets are $15. Performances are 8 PM Wednesdays-Fridays, 2 PM and 8 PM Saturdays and 7 PM Sundays. ArcLight Theatre is at 152 West 71st Street. For ticket information, call (212) 206-1515.
— By Kenneth Jones