Producers of Sweet Smell of Success, the new Marvin Hamlisch-Craig Carnelia musical based on the film of the same name, are targeting spring 2002 for the darkly urbane show, which was cheered in workshop presentations in August 2000.
SFX Theatrical Group, David Brown, Ernest Lehman and Marty Bell produced the workshop, which had July rehearsals and Aug. 1-2 presentations featuring John Lithgow, Brian d'Arcy James, Lauren Ward, Jack Noseworthy, Stacey Logan and a company of 16. Bell told Playbill On-Line the plan is for fall 2001 rehearsals and an out of town run in late 2001, followed by Broadway performances in early 2002.
The buzz was palpable after the summer 2000 workshop of the intermissionless show, with a book by John Guare, direction by Nicholas Hytner and choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, prompting many to question why the producers would delay a good thing.
One of the good things, Bell said, was John Lithgow, who played treacherous New York columnist JJ Hunsecker. Lithgow is committed to his TV series, "Third Rock From the Sun," and the Sweet Smell producers are committed to Lithgow. It is thought Lithgow's involvement with the series might be over by fall 2001; Lithgow has said in interviews that he expects to be in Sweet Smell in 2002.
Bell said the producers were very pleased with the workshop company and, pending availability, it was likely their chores would be repeated for the Broadway production. The cast will number 21, he said. The show will go right into rehearsals without any more workshoppping. Drawn from Ernest Lehman's novella and his screenplay with Clifford Odets (for the 1957 movie), the story involves a worm like press agent, Sidney Falco (played by James), who does the bidding of powerful Hunsecker, wreaking havoc on innocent people, including Hunsecker's sister and beau.
Sweet Smell offers a dark world full of nasty people who hide in the shadows of New York City's nightlife in the 1950s, a jungle where losers win and winners lose as jazz plays in the background.
"Without losing any of the edge of the piece," Bell said, "I think you'll find something at the end that's hopeful."
The movie, with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, is full of character twists and turns, and changes of fortune. Bell said Guare has provided new twists that enhance the experience.
The writers and Hytner had their first read of the first draft of the show Nov. 9-19, 1998. The project was initiated by the then-active Livent, run by Garth Drabinsky. SFX eventually took over Livent's properties when the empire fell into financial ruin. Former Livent senior creative producer Bell said Sweet Smell is the last of the projects initiated by Livent. The Livent machine conceived or nurtured an impressive list of shows, however, including Kiss of the Spider Woman, Ragtime, Barrymore, Fosse and Seussical. A Livent-developed rethinking of Pal Joey, with a book by Terrence McNally, is in a kind of limbo, Bell said.
Composer Hamlisch is best known for his Tony- and Pulitzer winning musical classic, A Chorus Line. He also had a long running hit with They're Playing Our Song but has enjoyed less success with subsequent projects, including Smile and The Goodbye Girl.
Carnelia is perhaps best-known for his song, "Just a Housewife," from Working. He wrote Is There Life After High School?, which had a short Broadway run in the early 1980s but was recorded and has attained a cult following.
Guare is the award-winning author of Six Degrees of Separation, The House of Blue Leaves, Four Baboons Adoring the Sun and the film "Atlantic City."
The original motion picture of Sweet Smell of Success was directed by Alexander Mackendrick and also starred Marty Milner, Sam Levene, Barbara Nichols, Susan Harrison, Joe Frisco and the Chico Hamilton Quintet.
The summer 2000 workshop also featured Joanna Glushak, Frank Vlastnik, Cleve Asbury, Michael McCormick, Bernard Dotson, Julio Augustin, Rachelle Rak, Kate Coffman, Mark Zimmerman, Colleen Hawks, Jamie Chandler-Toms, Roy Harcourt, Eric Michael Gillet, J.C. Montgomery, Shannon Lewis and Tobi Foster.