Though the egg-bearing bunny hopped across calendars March 30, the big Easter day for theatre fans was April 7, when a new stage version of the 1948 film musical Easter Parade went into a five-week rehearsal/workshop. The workshop was originally supposed to culminate in several performances for friends and backers in early May, but Tommy Tune & Co. have decided to take a more informal approach, inviting people to come in throughout the rehearsal process.
Said librettist Phillip Oesterman, "Things are going great. And anybody can come whenever they feel like it. We get done what we get done; we may finish the whole thing in five weeks, we may not -- but it looks like we may. Nine had a rehearsal process like this; it was open. This is a little different, because it's a little more out of the way at Westbeth."
No immediate outcome is expected from this early workshop, but Oesterman anticipates the show reaching Broadway in early spring 1998 after an out-of-town run Sept. 1997.
Asked about the rehearsal process, Oesterman told Plabybill On-Line (April 14) things were smooth and "happy happy happy," and that each rehearsal begins with 15 minutes of breathing exercises. "It's kind of a yoga and relaxation thing, and we close it with the phrase, `May we all be the best we can be.' Then we go to work."
Oesterman thinks one reason things are running so smoothly is that he, director Tune, star Sandy Duncan, and co-choreographer Tad Lock are all Texans. "There's something about people from Texas. They're not like people from Iowa." The only tough part has been musical director Wally Harper's badly broken ankle. "We're three long flights up," said Oesterman. "He's on crutches, and on top of that, he has to play every night with Barbara Cook at her show at the Carlyle." Ironically, Tune's own leg injury was the reason given for the demise of his Busker Alley on the road.
With songs by Irving Berlin and a book by Phillip Oesterman, Irving Berlin's Easter Parade will star Sandy Duncan (Star Sp irl) and Tommy Tune, in his first Broadway-bound project since Busker Alley closed out of town and he left The Royal Family behind. Tune and Oesterman will co-direct; Tune and Tad Lock will co choreograph. According to Theatrical Index, The Swells Company will produce IBEP through its workshop phase.
Songs in the Judy Garland/Fred Astaire film included "Stepping Out With My Baby," "Shaking The Blues Away," "A Couple Of Swells" and the title tune. Oesterman said the show will have songs not in the movie, but couldn't yet give a full run-down of the score. He did say he's added and subtracted characters and adapted the film's story to be "more age appropriate for Tommy and Sandy. Sandy's character, especially, will be older and more experienced."
According Leonard Maltin's TV Movies & Video Guide, the story had 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)." Tune will play the Astaire part; Duncan the Garland part. Duncan danced on Broadway in Tune's My One and Only (she replaced Twiggy).
Announcements of Easter Parade's designers and out-of-town venue are (according to Oesterman, April 14) "a couple of weeks away."
--By David Lefkowitz