The first Broadway revival of the 1956 musical, Bells Are Ringing, will close June 10 at the Plymouth Theatre after 35 previews and 69 performances.
The sunny revival of the 1956 musical comedy by librettist lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green and late composer Jule Styne did not catch on, despite Tony Award nominations for Best Revival (Musical) and Best Actress (Musical) for Faith Prince.
The show had trouble overcoming a negative review in The New York Times, producer Mitchell Maxwell told Playbill On-Line. He lamented the narrowing Broadway arena, which seems to allow only "event" shows. Director Tina Landau, a newcomer to the Broadway commercial world, staged the show. Jeff Calhoun choreographed. A cast album was recorded and will be released later this month.
The New York City of Betty Comden and Adolph Green's imagination — where subway rides are friendly and an urban park at night is the perfect setting for a soft-shoe routine — came to life by opening April 12. After a one-week test run at The Palace Theatre in Stamford, CT, the company returned to a rehearsal studio and then began the preview period (March 13), during which moments were tweaked, revised and refined. The dance number "Mu-Cha-Cha" was altered in previews.
Landau is known for such "downtown" work as Space, Dream True and Floyd Collins.
Tony Award winner Faith Prince (Guys and Dolls) in a role created by Judy Holliday. The show's score produced two standards: "Just in Time" and "The Party's Over." The show's famous opening, "Bells Are Ringing," an advertisement for an answering service company, is seen in the revival as a giant 1950s-style TV commercial complete with smooth, sincere spokesman and rudimentary animation on a scrim (with actresses behind). The show's overture offers a video montage of the period.
Prince (Guys and Dolls) plays guileless answering service operator Ella Peterson, who gets involved in the lives of her clients, including a sexy if unfocused playwright named Jeff Moss (played by Marc Kudisch, late of The Public Theater's The Wild Party and La Jolla's Thoroughly Modern Millie). Prince appeared on Broadway and regionally in James Joyce's The Dead, and starred in Little Me for the Roundabout Theatre Company.
Martin Moran (Titanic, Cabaret) plays a caffeinated, singing dentist named Kitchell (he stole scenes in the show, as he hummed and composed on his dental air hose), Robert Ari (Laughter on the 23rd Floor) and Jeffrey Bean (Amadeus) are cops investigating Sandor's illegal bookie operation, which has a classical music mail-order business as a front.
Julio Agustin (Fosse) plays neighbor Carl, who teaches Ella to cha-cha, Darren Ritchie plays the Brando-like actor, Blake Barton. Caitlin Carter is a socialite sexpot named Olga and Angela Robinson plays Gwynne, a co-worker. The company also includes Joanne Baum, David Brummel, Lawrence Clayton, James Hadley, Roy Harcourt, Stacey Harris, Joan Hess, Emily Hsu, Shane Kirkpatrick, Marc Oka, Greg Reuter, Josh Rhodes, Alice Rietveld, Darren Ritchie, Linda Romoff and Kelly Sullivan.
Producers are Mitchell Maxwell, Victoria Maxwell and Mark Balsam for Momentum Productions, Inc.; Robert Barandes; Richard Bernstein; and James L. Simon; in association with Fred H. Krones, Anthony R. Russo and Allen M. Shore.
The show offers a breezy, satiric, but sweetly affectionate view of then modern New York City, where subway rides turn friendly ("Hello, Hello There!"), meetings in the park become reasons for singing ("Just in Time") and celebrity soirees can make a working-class girl feel inferior ("The Party's Over").
The score also includes "Independent," Drop That Name," "Mu Cha-Cha," "I Met a Girl," "It's a Simple Little System," "Salzberg," "I'm Going Back," "Long Before I Knew You," "Is It a Crime?," "It's a Perfect Relationship" and "The Midas Touch."
The original production of Bells Are Ringing ran 924 performances, under the direction of Jerome Robbins. Robbins and Bob Fosse choreographed. Judy Holliday took home the Best Actress (Musical) Tony Award and Sydney Chaplin won the Best Featured Actor (Musical) Tony, playing Jeff Moss.