Broadway will have another "new" musical this season when The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm begins previews April 2 for an April 25 opening at the Longacre Theatre.
Spokesman Chris Boneau told Playbill On-Line Feb. 18 rehearsals for the young, sexy revue of classic George and Ira Gershwin numbers begin March 9.
Producers Manny Kladitis, Columbia Artists Management, Inc., Magicworks, and Jerry Frankel 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 Swan Lake, Parade, Footloose, Band in Berlin and Civil War).
Previously produced in a different version in 1997 at Hartford Stage and then reconceived for a near-sell-out run Dec. 5, 1998-Jan. 24,1999 by the Arizona Theatre Company, Fascinating Rhythm was conceived by Mark Lamos (director) and Mel Marvin (musical a vocal arranger). The Arizona staging -- first in Tucson, then Phoenix -- was a co production between ATC and the commercial producers, who put in pre- production money.
The treasure chest of hits in the revue includes "Lady Be Good," "The Man I Love," "I Got Rhythm," "Our Love is Here to Stay," "Embraceable You," "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and "Someone to Watch Over Me," among others. Lesser known are "I Love to Rhyme," "Home Blues," "Hang On to Me" and "Just Another Rumba."
Lamos' 90-minute, intermissionless, starless production in Arizona was not your grandfather's Gershwin: Called slinky and sexy and contemporary, its choices included a lesbian couple singing, "Isn't It a Pity?"
It was not immediately clear how much of the Arizona cast would be part of the Broadway run. In the desert, David Marques choreographed, Cynthia Kortman was music director-conductor, Larry Hochman orchestrated, Michael Yeargan (Yale Repertory Theatre) was scenic designer, Peggy Eisenhauer (Bring in 'da Noise/Bring in 'da Funk) was lighting designer and Paul Tazewell (Noise/Funk) designed costumes.
The intended Broadway staging is expected to be a lift of the Arizona production, according to a Kladitis spokesman. ATC artistic director Goldstein said his nonprofit company has "minor participation" in future productions of the show, meaning they will likely get some kind of royalty and a credit for helping launch the new work. The same is true of Hartford Stage, he said.
By the time it closed Jan. 24, 1999, at the Herberger Theatre in Phoenix, Fascinating Rhythm was the top box office earner in the 32-year history of the nonprofit ATC. More than 37,000 theatregoers attended what ATC publicist Michael Rennie has called "a hip, sexy, modern take on the classic Gershwin (material)."
Capacity was at 99 percent for both the Tucson run at the Temple of Music and Art and the Phoenix run at the Herberger, according to Rennie. ATC runs its shows at two theatres.
At one point after the Arizona closing, press rep Boneau suggested the show could go a number of ways: A Broadway gig by April (in time for Tony Award consideration) at the Longacre, the only available Broadway house; a national tour prior to New York later in the year; or -- a remote possibility -- a hotel or resort sitdown, leading to a New York run.
The musical had a dash of unexpected drama Jan. 10 when dancer-singer David Elder (Titanic) fell and injured his knee during a performance of the "Our Love is Here to Stay" pas de deux, necessitating a brief intermission. Elder continued in the show for several days, singing his role while others covered the dancing. The cast covered for him after he left the show Jan. 14 for surgery and subsequent recovery. He is expected to fully recover.
Kladitis' producing partners for the ATC tryout in Tucson (Dec. 5-27, 1998) and Phoenix (Jan. 1-24, 1999) -- and, it is expected, for a Broadway run -- are Columbia Artists Management, Inc., Magicworks and Jerry Frankel.
The 27 numbers represent a pared-down score compared to the 1997 Hartford staging, which reportedly had more tunes.
The Arizona cast featured Kena Dorsey (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum ), David Elder (Titanic ), Romain Fruge (Tommy ), Chris Ghelfi (The Life ), Jillian [sic], Karen Lifshey (Show Boat ), Brian J. Marcum (Paper Mill Playhouse's Gypsy ), Jill Nicklaus (Cats ), Sara Ramirez (The Capeman ) and Scott Spahr (On the Town ). Jody Ripplinger was the swing.