Back in March 1998, producer David Brown was hoping to bring "A Bea Arthur Evening" to Broadway that season. That show never materialized, but now Arthur fans and wannaBeas can take heart: the "Maude" and "Golden Girls" star, who's been touring a one-woman show to 26 cities, brings her solo to Broadway's Booth Theatre for 48 performances starting Jan. 29 and opening Feb. 17 for a run though March 10.
The show's first preview will have the star presence and press coverage usually reserved for opening night. According to spokespersons at the Barlow-Hartman press office, among the celebs expected to be at Bea will be Rue McClanahan, Harry Belafonte, Chita Rivera, Edie Falco, Jean Stapleton, Gloria Vanderbilt, Joan Rivers, Betty Buckley, Charles Busch and Michele Lee.
Daryl Roth, USA Ostar Theatricals and Bev Bartner are producing Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends (formerly titled ...And Then There's Bea, With Her Friend Billy Goldenberg at the Piano), which opened at Minneapolis, MN's Guthrie Theatre April 24-29. The show charts Arthur's theatre and TV career through songs and anecdotes.
Producer Roth told Playbill On-Line Nov. 14, "It's the show that's been on tour. Very simple design — a chair and a piano. Basic Bea, with Billy Goldenberg at the piano." Matt Berman, the tour's lighting designer, would repeat his duties on Broadway. Mark Waldrop, librettist-lyricist for When Pigs Fly, is production supervisor. Richard Maltby, Jr. was initially serving as production consultant, but he is no longer involved in the project.
"It's reminiscences, storytelling, her career," Roth has said of the Arthur solo, "with songs that are meaningful to her." Record producer Hugh Fordin of DRG Records has snagged the cast album deal for the solo. DRG will record the show live Dec. 12-13 at the Royal Poinciana in West Palm Beach, FL. The release date for the album is Feb. 12, a DRG spokesman said. Actress Arthur got her start in the original production of The Threepenny Opera in 1954 and was the original Yente the Matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof. Her work as Vera Charles in Mame led to a Tony Award, while her work in TV's "Maude" led to a 1977 Emmy. Arthur's last Broadway show was Woody Allen's The Floating Lightbulb. Coincidentally, Elaine Stritch, who's two years younger than Arthur, also has a current solo show that may reach Broadway — and in the show she recounts how Arthur beat her out for a role in the sitcom hit, "The Golden Girls."
Composer Goldenberg is best known for his film work ("The Last of Sheila," "Play It Again, Sam") but he also wrote the music for The Queen of the Stardust Ballroom and An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May, before serving as dance music arranger for such musicals as Greenwillow and High Spirits. He's currently working with The Fantasticks' Tom Jones on a musical adaptation of "Harold and Maude." Producer Roth is also expecting to stage Edward Albee's latest, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? on Broadway in the early spring.
Just Between Friends ended its tour Jan. 6 in Phoenix, according to spokespersons at the Barlow-Hartman press office.
For tickets ($50-$65) and information on Bea Arthur On Broadway call (12) 239-6200.