The Tommy Tune-Sandy Duncan Easter Parade, mentioned for a fall 1999 Broadway staging, is being delayed to late 1999 or perhaps early 2000, said co-director/co-librettist Phillip Oesterman (Oct. 23).
A New York date for the long-aborning stage version of the MGM movie musical spiked with Irving Berlin songs, looks fuzzy while co- director/ choreographer Tune considers other performance projects for himself, Oesterman told Playbill On-Line.
The hope was to have a Chicago tryout in fall 1999, probably at a Nederlander Theatre, followed by a Broadway date in November 1999, said Oesterman, but Tune's possible plans may prevent that. The show had a workshop in Australia in 1997 and a New York workshop in summer 1998.
Oesterman said work on Easter Parade continues with the addition of Tony Award-winning book writer Peter Stone (1776, Titanic). The collaborators had discussions about the shape of the in-process Easter Parade script as recently as Oct. 13, Oesterman said.
"Tommy, Peter and I are working on it and making changes," Oesterman said. In the staging of the 1948 picture, Tune would play the vaudevillian role originated by Fred Astaire, while Duncan would play the Judy Garland role. Duncan danced on Broadway in Tune's My One and Only (she replaced Twiggy).
Oesterman said the delay is just part of the waiting game typical of getting a new musical together ("We'll all be so old!" he joked) and had nothing to do with the backers' reported inability to raise money for the project.
As co-director and co-librettist, Oesterman said, he has heard nothing to lend support to an Oct. 21 New York Post item suggesting the show may be "dead in the water" because of Tune's plans or because backers were reportedly having trouble raising dough for the project.
The delay is not financial, said Oesterman, it's about Tune's possible commitments in the coming year.
Inquiries to Nederlander Productions and Easter Parade general management Nina Lannan Associates were referred to publicist Boneau/Bryan-Brown. Playbill On-Line's calls to B/B-B were not returned at press time.
Tune has been mentioned to replace David Cassidy in the Las Vegas spectacle "EFX" at the MGM Grand Hotel. Cassidy leaves the show Dec. 31. Oesterman, a fellow Texan and lifelong friend and collaborator of Tune, would not comment about Tune's other work, except to say that pals Duncan and Tune will likely team up in late 1998 in Seattle for several special concerts that may include some songs from Easter Parade.
MGM Grand Hotel publicist Shelley Mansholt would not comment about ongoing casting for "EFX."
A representative of Sandy Duncan's agent, Monty Silver, said there was no comment from his office.
A 1997 workshop of the first act, for friends and producers, happened at Houston, TX's Theatre Under the Stars prior to a November-December 1997 workshop in Australia. A tour there didn't materialize partly due to theatre-booking issues.
As reported by Theatrical Index, the show, which held another five-week workshop in a Greenwich Village rehearsal studio (May-June 1998), is now in the hands of the Nederlanders, rather than its original producing group of Steven Baruch, Richard Frankel, Thomas Viertel & Marc Routh.
The recent NY workshop concentrated on the show's second act. "Tommy and I have been working and learning from our experience in Australia," Oesterman told Playbill On-Line (May 11). "I added a new character who wasn't in the movie, Maxine Moonlight, and she's played by KT Sullivan." Sullivan, a noted cabaret singer, starred in the Goodspeed Opera's Broadway revival of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Rhonda Burchmore has been mentioned for a supporting role.
In April 1998, Oesterman went into more detail about Easter Parade. "It's still the same sweet romance, but the tone is different, broader, more contemporary. We're focusing more on the relationship of the lead characters, as performers and as lovers. The Peter Lawford character has been taken out, for instance." Just about all of Irving Berlin's songs, however, remain.
Oesterman is a longtime Tune work partner, having teamed with the multiple Tony Award-winner on more than 20 productions, including My One and Only, Grand Hotel, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and The Will Rogers Follies!
Tad Tadlock co-choreographs Easter Parade alongside Tune. Songs in the musical include the title tune, "Shakin' The Blues Away," and "We're a Couple of Swells."
Easter Parade for the stage began with a nod from the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, which controls the Irving Berlin catalogue, Oesterman said. The producers approached Tune, asking to work with him on whatever he wanted from Berlin's oeuvre. Looking for a vehicle to replace the ill-fated Buskers (to which Oesterman contributed in later phases), Tune chose Easter Parade.
Other writers were initially involved in creating the Easter Parade book, but Oesterman said he was so displeased with the results he took over the task himself. When he finished the first draft, he called Tune up, told him to come over and read it right then. It's been through many rewrites since.
* According to Leonard Maltin's TV Movies & Video Guide, the story of the 1948 film of Easter Parade has to do with a "Star-Is-Born-style musical triangle, with the Astaire character, Don Hughes, latching onto Garland (Hannah Brown) while forgetting his first dance partner, Ann Miller (as Nadine Kincaid)."