Sam Harris Jolson Musical Back on Legit Radar as Broadway Man

News   Sam Harris Jolson Musical Back on Legit Radar as Broadway Man The Jazz Singer, the once-Broadway-bound musical about the life of Al Jolson that was to star Sam Harris, has resurfaced after a five-year disappearance.
Sam Harris
Sam Harris

The Sherman Yellen-Will Holt show, now called Broadway Man, will get a one-day staging on Aug. 13 as part of "Stages 2004: A Festival of New Musicals" at the Theatre Building Chicago. It will be one of eight tuners tested during the Aug. 13-15 fest.

Originally, The Jazz Singer was scheduled to start Broadway previews Dec. 17, 1998, and open Jan. 7, 1999. By September 1998, producers Hy Juter and Marvin A. Krauss had raised enough money to bring to bring the musical to a 499-seat Off-Broadway house as a kind of pre-Broadway test. However, the show then lost a major investor. Juter continued to seek investors and even held out the carrot of Tommy Tune's possible involvement as director, but eventually everything was put on indefinite hold. On Aug. 18, 1998, Jazz Singer co-producer Krauss confirmed that the production's budget, which started at $8 million and was later lowered to $6 million, bottomed out at $2.1 million.

Also arguably troubling the show at the time was that fact that there were two other musicals about Jolson then treading the boards.

The show has a score by Holt (Jack ), augmented by tunes made famous by Jolson. Yellen penned the book.

Actors in the show's early workshops included Mylinda Hull (later replaced by Jean Louisa Kelly) as Ruby Keeler, Sam Harris, Larry Keith (as the father), Marcus Neville (as Georgie Jessel), Ron Wisniski (as movie producer Harry Cohn), Rudy Roberson (as Jolson's close friend, Eubie Blake), James Darrah, Herndon Lackey, Will Shaw and Charlie Marcus. The Jazz Singer (named after the very first commercially released talking film, in which Jolson starred) intends to take a realistic look at Jolson's life, focusing particularly on his relationship to his father, his wife Ruby Keeler, his audience, and his ego. Also addressed are Jolson's trademark propensity to perform in blackface. Holt will fill the score with songs written in the style of the popular composers of Jolson's day, such as Irving Berlin and Harry Warren. Also included are various songs the singer made famous, such as "Swanee," "April Showers," "Baby Face," and "Toot, Toot, Tootsie! Goodbye."

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