Add to the growing list of stage musicals based on popular movies The Summer of `42, a new work currently undergoing a series of staged readings in Manhattan. This developing musical joins a list that already includes Big, Saturday Night Fever, Footloose and The Lion King, with Thoroughly Modern Millie also on the way.
A May 4 reading of Summer of `42 at the York Theater Company is now being followed by a May 17 reading at the Director's Company. Starring in both readings are Alice Ripley (Side Show, Sunset Boulevard), her Sunset co-star Alan Campbell, and Footloose lead Jeremy Kushnier. Also in the cast are Lauren Kennedy (Side Show), Chris Diamantopoulos (Les Miz), Whitney Allen (Forbidden Broadway), Danielle Ferland (Into the Woods) and John Hillner (Footloose). Kirk McDonald (Parade) was in the York reading; Jesse Tyler Ferguson (On The Town) will take his place at the Director's Company reading.
Ripley, now in Les Miz, is certainly doing her part to help the new show along. She and Emily Skinner will do a song from Summer on their upcoming "Duets II" CD.
Though critics were lukewarm, Robert Mulligan's 1971 film, "Summer of `42," became a big box office draw, with new star Jennifer O'Neill and composer Michel LeGrand receiving special attention. The story told of a 15-year-old boy, Hermie, drawn into a relationship with Dorothy, a beautiful war-bride. In the musical reading, Ripley plays the object of Diamantopoulos's affections.
Hunter Foster, understudy for Kushnier in Footloose and a performer in Grease! and King David, penned the libretto for Summer of `42, with David Kirshenbaum (Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus) writing the music and lyrics. Kirshenbaum told Playbill On-Line (May 14) Summer of `42 would get further development at the Festival of New Works in Ann Arbor, MI, a new annual project modeled after similar ventures at Vassar and the Eugene O'Neill Center. Summer is to be performed in bare-bones workshop there, June 18-20.
Nick Corley, director of the Melting Pot Theater's current revue, Fables in Slang, is staging both readings of Summer of `42. Songs in the show include "Someone To Dance With Me," "Will That Ever Happen To Me?" and a solo for Dorothy, "Losing Track of Time."
[Though reservations are limited, the public is invited to the May 17 reading. Call (212) 841-0336 for information.]
Asked about how Summer came into fruition, composer-lyricist Kirshenbaum told Playbill On-Line (May 3), "It was Hunter Foster's idea, and we've been working on it just over a year in earnest. He and I went to the University of Michigan together. In fact, he had a lead role in the first musical I ever wrote. Anyway, he had the idea, and I said, `if you can get the rights to it, go ahead,' figuring these things are impossibly complicated. Hunter's lawyer approached [screenwriter] Herman Raucher's lawyers, and in a month we had the rights. We started working on it February of last year and held a private reading for ourselves in March."
Asked what he felt was special about the material, Kirshenbaum said, "It's a memory play. People remember the movie's nostalgic element, the relationship between Dorothy and Hermie, but I think the piece is more about loss. It's very touching. Through this first love of his life, Hermie goes through every kind of emotion you can experience in a relationship. Of course, it's also very funny."
-- By David Lefkowitz