Broadway season after Broadway season, it's very clear the Gershwins are here to stay.
The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm, beginning preview April 2 at the Longacre Theatre, is this season's proof that composer George and his lyricist brother, Ira, are an enduring force in the Broadway theatre. The 90-minute, intermissionless collage of their work, conceived and developed by Mark Lamos and Mel Marvin in the regional theatre, officially opens on the Broadway the Gershwins helped make famous April 25.
The collection of Gershwin songs culled from their stage and movie musicals from the 1920s and 30s is reportedly given a hip, contemporary treatment, sung and danced by Michael Berresse (Chicago), Darius de Haas (OB's Running Man), Adriane Lenox (OB's Dinah Was), Sara Ramirez (The Capeman), Patrick Wilson (Bright Lights, Big City), Orfeh (Footloose), Chris Ghelfi (The Life), Tim Hunter (Sarafina), Karen Lifshey (Show Boat), Jill Nicklaus (Cats), Brian J. Marcum and Kenya U. Massey.
The treasure chest of hits in the revue includes the title number, "I've Got a Crush on You," "Lady, Be Good!," "High Hat," "Clap Yo' Hands," "Cousin in Milwaukee/The Lorelei," "The Man I Love/Soon," "Love Is Here to Stay" (pas de deux), "Little Jazz Bird," "Isn't It a Pity," "I Love to Rhyme," "Blah, Blah, Blah," "I Got Rhythm," "Embraceable You," "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "But Not For Me," "Just Another Rhumba," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "The Half Of It Dearie Blues," "Love Is Here to Stay," "How Long Has This Been Going On," "Home Blues," "Who Cares," "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "Hang On to Me" and "Kickin' the Clouds Away."
Reviving -- and/or reinventing the context of -- Gershwin songs is nothing new to Broadway: My One and Only, Oh, Kay! and Crazy for You all recently did it. The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm has been in development for several years, helmed by co-conceivers Mark Lamos (director) and Mel Marvin (music and vocal arranger). Versions of it previously played at Arizona Theatre Company and Hartford Stage Company, where Lamos used to be artistic director.
The Broadway producers are Music Makers Inc., Columbia Artists and Manny Kladitis, with associate producers Magicworks/SFX Entertainment and Jerry Frankel.
The producers will likely lobby for this repackaging of hit songs to be considered for a Best Musical Tony nomination. The nom deadline is late April. Similarly, the Bob Fosse revue, Fosse, repackages material previously seen, as did the Tony-winner, Jerome Robbins' Broadway, a decade ago. Fosse opened in January at the Broadhurst Theatre, one of a handful of musicals in the 1998-99 season. Among other non revival contenders this season are Parade, Footloose, Band in Berlin and Civil War.
In December 1998 and January 1999, the ATC regional staging (with a different cast) was called slinky and sexy and contemporary. Among other things, it included a lesbian couple singing, "Isn't It a Pity?"
As in Arizona, the Broadway creative team includes David Marques (choreography), Larry Hochman (orchestrations), Michael Yeargan (scenic design), Peggy Eisenhauer (lighting design), Abe Jacob (sound) and Paul Tazewell (costume design). Additional arrangements are by Paul J. Ascenzo and Joseph Church.
By the time it closed Jan. 24, 1999, at the Herberger Theatre in Phoenix, the ATC Fascinating Rhythm was the top box office earner in the 32-year history of the nonprofit company. More than 37,000 theatregoers attended what ATC publicist Michael Rennie has called "a hip, sexy, modern take on the classic Gershwin (material)."