What may be the last pre-production reading of Marty — the Charles Strouse-Lee Adams musical of the Oscar-winning 1955 film about a homely, unassuming Bronx butcher who wins a new lease on life through an unexpected romance — will take place in New York City on Feb. 5. John C. Reilly, the True West star who headed a July 2001 reading, will again play the title role.
Strouse told Playbill On-Line Jan. 28 that, if all goes well, this will be the final reading of the long-in-gestation Marty. The next step will be a pre-Broadway regional tryout. Strouse named Philadelphia and Boston as his preferred tryout towns, though he said the currently-popular Chicago was also a possibility.
A 2001 reading of Marty was held in NYC July 19-20 at 890 Broadway. Robert Longbottom directed.
The show was originally connected to Jason Alexander, although the "Seinfeld" actor did not take part in a 2000 reading of the show. Asked at the time if Alexander was through with the project, producer James Weissenbach could not say for sure but mentioned that the actor's new television series had been picked up, making it difficult for Alexander to be part of a hoped-for Broadway mounting of Marty. That series, "Bob Patterson," has since been canceled.
John C. Reilly received acclaim for his performance opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman in the Broadway revival of True West. The two actors, who have appeared together in films such as "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia," created a sensation by trading the roles of Lee and Austin every three performances. "We've heard him sing," Weissenbach told Playbill On-Line. "He sings incredibly well." He added, however, that the show would be tailored to fit Reilly's more actorly mien. "The show's going to be less musical comedy, more realistic. The actors we're looking at are the actors who can sing. as opposed to the singers who can act."
Weissenbach, a native Chicagoan, said his dream set-up for the show would be to try it out in the Windy City and then bring it to Broadway in spring 2002.
An earlier 2000 reading of Marty included Carol Lawrence in the role of Marty's mother; Josie de Guzman (Guys and Dolls) as Clara, the shy girl who displays faith in Marty; Stephen DeRosa (The Man Who Came to Dinner) as Angie, Marty's best friend; Robert Sella (Side Man) as Leo, one of Marty's cronies; Meryl Louise as Aunt Katherine; Janet Metz as Virginia; Mark Lotito and Michael Mastro (Side Man) as other chums of Marty; Danny Burstein as Thomas, Marty's cousin; and Farah Alvin.
Playing the title role was unknown actor, Jordan Gelber, discovered by a casting director at New York University.
In 2000, the show took on a new bookwriter in the person of Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood). Holmes replaced Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, television's "The West Wing" and "Sports Night"). The change in personnel necessitated some rewriting.
Composer Strouse and lyricist Adams are best known for the 1961 Tony winning Best Musical, Bye Bye Birdie. They also collaborated on Golden Boy, All-American and Applause. Strouse is also famous for his Annie score.
On screen, the movie earned Oscars for Ernest Borgnine, who played Marty, screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky, and director Delbert Mann. It also won the Best Picture prize.
—By Robert Simonson