Musical Mondays, the showcase of readings of new musicals that was once in the upstairs ballroom at the Century Center for the Performing Arts off Union Square, resurfaces in residence at The Broadway Theater Institute March 12 to offer a musical version of the George S. Kaufman-Edna Ferber classic, Dinner at Eight.
An industry-only reading, with Jessica Molaskey playing hostess Millicent Jordan, was presented March 8 and is being repeated March 12 with Deborah Tranelli in the Millicent role for Musical Mondays' subscribers and friends. Molaskey was to sing March 12 but pulled out due to another commitment.
Tranelli, who previously played Millicent in the Century Center private reading, and has been featured in the Lyrics and Lyricists series at the YMHA, sings the role of the scatterbrained 1930s Manhattan socialite whose dinner party is the centerpiece of the musical. Musical numbers in the show include "Close Enough," "Wanna Buy a Theatre?," "Ever So Young," "On the Night When It Might Have Been" and "Extravaganza of the Year."
Musical Mondays moved uptown in the past few months under the guidance of producing director Bick Goss (who directs D@8, the affectionate shorthand used by the writers). The group, dedicated to the development of new musicals, was invited by BTI's president, Helen Guditis, to serve as the musical theatre producing project in residence at the Institute's Resource Center, located at 210 West 50th Street.
Dinner at Eight, which has been in development at Musical Mondays, has a book by Julie Gilbert, music by Ben Schaechter and lyrics by Frank Evans. Gilbert is the author of "Ferber," a biography of her great-aunt Edna Ferber, just re issued by Applause, as well as "Opposite Attraction," a dual biography of Paulette Goddard and Erich Maria Remarque, which was a Pulitzer Prize nominee. Schaechter, currently represented off-Broadway by Naked Boys Singing, tours internationally with a one-man show of Yiddish songs. Evans' Abie's Island Rose seen Off-Broadway at Jewish Repertory Theatre, transferred to the Hollywood (FL) Playhouse. Dinner at Eight is the recipient of the 2001 Jerry Bock Award for outstanding achievement in the musical theatre.
The cast includes Jonathon Dokuchitz ("Prince of Egypt" and" Mulan") as husband Oliver Jordan. The marrieds Millicent and Oliver were played in the 1935 MGM film by Billie Burke and Lionel Barrymore. Karen Mason, of Broadway's Sunset Boulevard and the current smash, Mamma Mia, plays the glamorous Carlotta Vance. Linda Romoff (a Sally in the current Cabaret run on Broadway) plays Kitty Packard, the Jean Harlow role. Robert Ari, a vet of Bells Are Ringing plays husband Dan Packard. Charles Pistone (Joey in the acclaimed Broadway revival of The Most Happy Fella) plays Larry Renault, the ruined actor Kaufman and Ferber modeled on John Barrymore.
Tracey Moore plays Hattie Loomis, the no-nonsense sister of the heroine, Millicent Jordan. Joel Briel (recently of Broadway's Cats) plays dual roles of Ed Loomis and Max Kane, originally played on Broadway by Sam Levene. Tracey Moore (recently of the York Theatre's Regina) plays Tina, a conniving maid, originally played on Broadway by bookwriter Gilbert's mother, Janet Fox.
Marnie Baumer, Alexa Harris, Fredric Marco and Steve Sterner round out the cast of 13. The original Broadway production employed 32 actors. For further information contact BTI/Musical Mondays at (212) 956-5481.
— By Kenneth Jones