The long-aborning Lee Pockriss-Hal Hackady musical, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, will have its world premiere Oct. 10-27 by Theatre Under the Stars, in the Houston, TX, company's new digs in the new Hobby Center for the Performing Arts.
The nonprofit musical theatre troupe had previously hoped to stage the dark musical version of the 1960 novel (and subsequent Warner Bros. film) in 2001, but the production was delayed for various reasons. The property's novelist and screenwriter, Henry Farrell, wrote the libretto. Pockriss (Tovarich) is the composer and Hackady (Goodtime Charley, Minnie's Boys) is lyricist.
London-based American director David Taylor will helm. His previous work includes the West End's They're Playing Our Song starring Tom Conti and Gemma Craven and The Prisoner of Second Avenue with Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason. Designers are Eduardo Sicangco (set) and Richard Winkler (lighting). The rest of the creative team will be announced.
The show, about the relationship of former child vaudeville star Jane Hudson and her disabled musical-film-star sister, Blanche, has been in development for eight years under British producer Michael Rose, who will take the show to the next step beyond Houston. The show had a London workshop and a full concert reading in Brighton.
In Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, a twisted psychological profile of show business gone mad, former child vaudevillian Baby Jane (Bette Davis, in the 1962 film) becomes caretaker for her movie star sister Blanche (Joan Crawford on screen) when the latter has a mysterious crippling accident. Encased in hideous pancake make-up and in a precarious mental condition, Jane torments and tortures her sister, while Blanche tries desperately to escape. Pockriss' pop songs include "Catch a Falling Star" and "Johnny Angel" and he also wrote songs for the musicals, Ernest in Love and Tovarich. Hackady penned lyrics to Snoopy!!!, Little By Little and the still-developing science fiction musical, Barsoom.
In 2001, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? was replaced by Funny Girl at TUTS. The TUTS season begins June 6-23 with the unveiling of a revised version of the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill musical known on Broadway in the 1970s as Sugar, but now retitled Some Like It Hot (based on the Billy Wilder film), starring Tony Curtis in the role of the story's aged millionaire. The production will then tour. The TUTS season includes The Wizard of Oz, Kiss Me, Kateand My Fair Lady, with one more show TBA.
For TUTS season information, call (713) 558-8887 or (888) 558-3882 or visit http://www.tuts.com.
New York producer Jon Wilner told Playbill On-Line he's in negotiations to present his revised revival of the Jerry Herman musical, Mack & Mabel, in the TUTS season at the new Hobby Center, for a January 2003 opening. No official announcement about M&M has been made by TUTS.
The Hobby Center is a $90 million complex that will house two theatres (one at 2,650 seats and one holding 500) and become the home of Theatre Under the Stars and touring shows.
"This new, two-theatre performing arts complex will anchor one edge of Houston's Theatre District and give nationally recognized and respected Theatre Under The Stars a permanent home in which memorable new productions such as Beauty and the Beast and Miss Saigon can be properly staged and enjoyed," according to a TUTS statement. "It will also provide a venue for other performing arts groups, schools, and non-profit organizations to become part of the cultural magic that makes Houston one of our country's most exciting places to work and live."
The Hobby Center's grand opening weekend is scheduled for May 10-12, with public and private events.
— By Kenneth Jones