Jolson & Company, the three-actor evocation of the life and times of singer-actor Al Jolson will have its "Swanee" song Dec. 22, when it shutters at Off-Broadway's Century Center for the Performing Arts after 116 performances.
The show devised by Stephen Mo Hannan and Jay Berkow (the latter also directs and handles musical staging) played its 100th performance Dec. 8. Prior to its Sept. 29 opening, the show set a Century Center box office record for advance sales.
The producer, Ric Wanetik, notified the company Dec. 9 that the show would close on Dec. 22. The producer told Playbill On-Line that discussions are underway for publishing the play and inquiries have been made for a production in Florida as well as a regional tour. With three performers and a clutch of popular songs as part of the experience, the show would seem to be a natural for a long life in regional theatres.
Previews for this latest Off-Broadway incarnation of the show that was previously seen at York Theatre Company in 1999-2000 began Sept. 12. All three York cast members from the original run — Hanan (as Jolson), Nancy Anderson and Robert Ari — are reunited here.
Jolson & Company casts Hanan, a Tony Award nominated veteran of Cats, as the legendary entertainer of vaudeville, Broadway, radio and screen. Co star Anderson won a Drama Desk nomination for Jolson and has since appeared on Broadway in A Class Act and in the London production of Kiss Me, Kate; Ari has been seen in the Broadway companies of Bells Are Ringing and Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Anderson and Ari play multiple roles. All tickets are $65. The Century Center is at 111 E. 15th St. (between Union Square and Irving Place). For information, call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or visit www.jolsonandcompany.
The frame of the show is a broadcast interview Jolson gave with Barry Gray at the Winter Garden Theatre in 1949. His life is explored in flashbacks. Peter Larson is musical director, James Morgan is set designer, Gail Baldoni handles costumes, Annmarie Duggan is lighting designer (all were attached to the previous York staging).
The two-act Jolson tuner, a musical docudrama, explores the life of the legendary stage, film and radio star Al Jolson, arguably the most influential performer of the 20th century. Jolson's signature hits, "Rock a Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody," "You Made Me Love You," "I'm Sitting on Top of the World," "California Here I Come," "Swanee," "Sonny Boy," "My Mammy," "April Showers," "Toot Toot Tootsie, Goodbye," and more, are all part of the show.
The show is populated with 15 other characters from the turn of the century to Jolson's death in 1950. "For a small, intimate show it has a large scale feel because of the historical sweep and because of the size of the main attraction," Hanan told Playbill On-Line. Other characters include Ruby Keeler, Harry Cohn, Mae West, Barry Gray and others.
Hanan has played Captain Hook opposite Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan. He earned a Best Featured Actor (Musical) Tony Award nomination for Growltiger/Asparagus in Broadway's Cats.