Perhaps you've heard the Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn song Three Coins in the Fountain, about three girls who go to Rome and make romantic wishes at the famous Trevi fountain, which evolve into romantic adventures ending happily in couplehood. Maybe you saw the 1954 film that featured that Academy Award-winning song, sung by Frank Sinatra, or caught The Pleasure Seekers the semi-musical remake with Ann Margaret 10 years later. You may have seen Coins in the Fountain, a 1990 TV remake.
The romantic story drawn from John Secondari's novel Coins in the Fountain is making its next and perhaps most fitting transformation - into a stage musical -- this summer at the St. Louis Muny Theatre. Titled Three Coins in the Fountain the world-premiere will run July 7-14. Conceived and adapted by Muny Executive Producer Paul Blake, in collaboration with Doris Baizley, the production's score consists of standards by the Hollywood team of Styne and Cahn.
The new show will sport old time Cahn/Styne favorites such as "I'll Walk Alone," "It's Magic," "Time After Time," "Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week, " and of course the title song Three Coins in the Fountain. According to Blake, "These songs are so powerful for people, they were so much a part of their lives. . . They dated to them, married to them, and even fought to them [World War II] ."
Fountain will star Muny favorite and soap star Leslie Denniston, Lara Teeter, Joel Higgins (TV's "Silver Spoons"), Tony nominee Maureen Brennan (1974 Candide), TV star and Broadway actress Michele Pawk (Mail, Crazy For You), and James Clow.
With an audience seating capacity of 12,000, its risky for the Muny, America's largest and oldest outdoor music theatre, to produce world premieres. Blake was inspired to create a new musical, after the success of his musical adaptation of Sleeping Beauty, using the music of Jerome Kern, last season. However, with this family musical, parents may be more likely to bring their parents than their children. Blake says, "I think it's a big treat for a lot of older people, and for younger people it will be a big treat to discover the songs their parents dated to."
Blake also believes that the younger people are unknowingly familiar with much of the music, because it is on the air all the time in different ways. A young assistant to Blake was surprised to recognize the songs when Blake played them, making frequent remarks such as, "Oh, yeah, Patsy Cline sings this!"
Styne is better-known to Broadway audiences as composer of Gypsy (with Stephen Sondheim), Funny Girl (with Bob Merrill), Bells Are Ringing and Peter Pan (both with Comden and Green). But Coins will use only songs he wrote with Cahn, primarily for Hollywood movies.
Blake's collaborator, Doris Baizley, whom he hired because "it was a show about three girls, and I wanted a woman's perspective, " found out about the show after her parents. When Doris got the job and called her parents in PA to tell them about the new project she was working on, they had already heard of it and planned to come see it. Apparently, a woman in St. Louis who was in the WAC's [woman's army camps] in WWII, saw a clipping about . . .Fountain in the paper, and instantly mailed the information to her old war buddies in PA, insisting they come to St. Louis to see it.
Blake toured with Cahn for the last five years of his life, producing Sammy Cahn in Concert, and was looking for a way to create a new musical from his work. Blake himself is surprised at the positive response. He was delighted with the immediate enthusiasm from the Muny's Board of Directors (mostly comprised of people in their 60's), when he pitched the idea for show.
"You want it to have some meaning to other people," says Blake, "You gotta believe that someone else is gonna love it, too. I didn't think it would have that much resonance. It is very meaningful that it is going to happen."
Like the recent successes of similar Broadway shows such as Ken Ludwig's Crazy For You, a new musical using the music of Gershwin, and Play On! using Ellington, Blake has a vision of the show going to New York. He claims there are already industry people interested.
Of Fountain's technical and design crew, Blake says, "It's like a Who's Who of Broadway from the fifties and sixties. Most of these [the designers] were proteges of the George Abbot school of theatre." ...Fountain will be choreographed by Gemze de Lappe, who for many years has been Agnes DeMille's assistant. Hugh Martin, who was MGM's premiere vocal arranger, will do vocal arrangements. Bob Fletcher will design costumes, Martin Aronstein will serve as lighting designer and Bill Eckert set designer.
Currently, Blake is busy with Baizley working on the script. Of Baizley, Blake says, "She's very good, she's written lots of shows that I've known so we're writing the scripts and putting in the songs in a musical context. Basically, every scene is leading towards the payoff--the song. We're writing the scene to get to the song. . .it's working in a different way. . . The song is the tale that does wag the dog."
A workshop of the production was done with students at Webster University in St. Louis at the end of March.
The show, like all others in the Muny season, runs one week only, July 7-14. For more information about tickets or the Muny Theatre season, please refer to the regional Theatre listing on Playbill On-Line. Incidentally, each night, 1456 free seats are available to the public on a first come first serve basis. Lineup usually begins around 4:30, and the gate opens at 7 PM.
--By Blair Glaser