Jonathan Pollard, Dena Hammerstein and Bernie Kukoff, the producing team behind the Off-Broadway hit, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change plan to bring a newly revised version of their 2001 show, They All Laughed! to Broadway in 2003-04.
Pollard told Playbill On-Line that the new name of the show is Heaven on Earth, which, like They All Laughed!, seen at the Goodspeed Opera House in 2001, uses a score culled from the Gershwin catalog and a book by Joe DiPietro using elements from the Gershwins' Oh, Kay! (1926).
Christopher Ashley will direct, as he did at Goodspeed, but this time around he has had more time to develop the material with DiPietro. Ashley was brought onto the Goodspeed mounting at the last minute to replace John Rando, who had been pulled to another project.
After the summer 2001 run, Ashley (The Rocky Horror Show, Communicating Doors) and DiPietro (I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change) went away to reconsider the project, and cut and added songs and tightened the script, Pollard said.
A reading in June 2002 showed the producers that Heaven on Earth was on the right track toward Broadway, and the partners are now aiming at 1, 200 1,400-seat house in the 2003-04 season. The cast will number about 25. The producers are "exploring the gamut of options" for the production's debut, including possible out of town tryouts, though the show may also very well open on Broadway without a tryout, Pollard said. Casting has not been announced. Marla Schaffel and James Ludwig starred in the Goodspeed run in East Haddam, CT. Pollard and partners expect the creative team to include choreographer Randy Skinner (42nd Street), music director Eric Stern (a Gershwin expert), set designer David Gallo (Thoroughly Modern Millie), costume designer David Woolard and lighting designer Ken Billington.
"Essentially, we liked what we saw at Goodspeed, audiences loved the piece, but we thought we could do better," Pollard told Playbill On-Line. "Joe and Chris in particular wanted an opportunity to collaborate on the project, on both the score [selection] and script. They went down to Florida and spent some time working on the show. They did a fairly significant rewrite on the script and score."
The reason for the title change? When reconsidering the script, the song, "They All Laughed," was cut and the finale song, "Heaven on Earth," seemed more appropriate (the lesser known "Heaven on Earth" is from Oh, Kay!).
"The entire message of the show was embodied in the finale, 'Heaven on Earth,''" Pollard said.
Added to the score since 2001 are "Someone to Watch Over Me" (the biggest hit to emerge from the very popular score of Oh, Kay!), "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," "Do It Again," " 'S Wonderful" and "That Certain Feeling," among other changes. An expanded version of "I've Got a Crush on You" has also been added.
DiPietro was commissioned by the estate of George and Ira Gershwin to fashion a new show out of the premise of Oh, Kay!, which concerned a Long Island playboy and a lady bootlegger (played originally by Gertrude Lawrence) who disguises herself as a maid during the Prohibition.
"Joe took the basic plot points of Oh, Kay!, discarding most of the P.G. Wodehouse-Guy Bolton script," Pollard explained. The changes done in the last year involved strengthening the relationship of lovers Billie and Jimmy and "adding as much giddiness as possible" — it's a silly musical comedy, after all," Pollard said.
They All Laughed! played Goodspeed Opera House June 29-Sept. 22, 2001. Joey McKneely (Smokey Joe's Cafe) choreographed that production.
This is not the first time the songs of George and Ira Gershwin have been plundered for "new" shows: My One and Only, Crazy For You and The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm were all new Broadway constructions using old songs. Neil Simon once worked on a now abandoned Gershwin-infused musical called A Foggy Day.
Crazy for You hit pay dirt: The show won the 1992 Tony Award for Best (New) Musical despite the recycled score. Heaven on Earth will be billed as a new musical, and based on the Tony-voter tradition, the show will be eligible for Best Musical. My One and Only was also nommed for Best Musical, in 1983.
— By Kenneth Jones