Producer Mitchell Maxwell, who made a late-blooming Broadway star of Jerry Lewis (in Damn Yankees), plans to work a similar miracle on Tony Curtis. The vehicle couldn't be more unlikely: Li'l Abner, the 40-year-old Johnny Mercer-Gene De Paul musical reading of Al Capp's celebrated comic strip. No, Curtis won't be playing the title character. Norman Panama and Melvin Frank's book is being revised for the revival so that the film actor will do two-roles-rolled-into-one: Senator Jack S. Phogbound and General Bullmoose.
The revival gets in gear in September 1997 and will likely tour to Broadway. Edie Adams, Tina Louise and Charlotte Rae all made their marks in the original 1956 production but were replaced in the 1959 movie version by Leslie Parrish, Stella Stevens and Billie Hayes. Recreating their stage roles: title player Peter Palmer, Stubby Kaye (Marryin' Sam), Howard St. John, Joe E. Marks and, as Stupefyin' Jones, Julie Newman.
Jerry Lewis did a gag cameo in the movie. Among the best remembered songs: "A Typical Day [in Dogpatch]," "If I Had My Druthers," "Namely You," "The Country's in the Very Best of Hands," "I'm Past My Prime" and the showstopping, stagestomping "Jubilation T. Cornpone." Mercer and De Paul previously collaborated on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.