Just as Hair and Godspell, touchstones of post-60's youthful ferment, are undergoing changes for new, more contemporary productions, Nov. 23 brings an updated version of the 1973 satirical revue, What's A Nice Country Like You Doing In A State Like This? to Off-Broadway's Theatre Row Theatre.
This being topical humor, nearly two thirds of the material will be different, with new songs to have titles like, "Everybody Ought To Have A Gun," "Hard To Be A Liberal," "Born Again Bill," and "Take Us Back, King George." Cary Hoffman composed the tunes; Ira Gasman, currently working on the Broadway-bound Cy Coleman musical, The Life, wrote the lyrics.
Productions spokesperson Kevin Rehac told Playbill On-Line that Hoffman and Gasman are constantly adding and changing material. He joked, "They've probably dropped a song and added a new one during the time of this phone conversation."
Reached by phone, Gasman told Playbill On-Line he was excited about Country being done on Theatre Row for the first time. "We started at a little place called Jimmy's, and the original cast had Betty Buckley and Priscilla Lopez in it. We played twice at the American Place Theatre, then at the Actors Playhouse. We felt this was a good time to bring the show back because people are so much more conscious politically nowadays."
Asked if he had a favorite number from the production, Gasman said, "That's like asking a parent to pick a favorite child...but...probably "Coffee Bar Suite," which is about young people finding themselves and each other." Cast members for Country are David Edwards, Janine LaManna (on the road as Chita Rivera's understudy in Spider Woman and last seen in NY in Jewish Rep's Theda Bara And The Frontier Rabbi), Sean McCourt, Vontress Mitchell and Karyn Quackenbush. Joseph Miklojcik designed the sets, Bob Bessoir the lighting, Ann Marie Wright the costumes. Original director Miriam Fond directs and choreographs the evening, which has musical direction at the piano by Ken Lundie ("one man at the piano, but he sounds like an orchestra," said Gasman).
There's no official opening date for WANCLYDIASLT, nor will critics be invited to review this special presentation, which runs thru Jan. 5, 1997. Gasman, Hoffman and Fond are "polishing" the show, which they hope will move in February to a larger Off-Broadway space. "This is our out-of-town," Gasman said of the Theatre Row Theatre engagement. Gasman also told Playbill On-Line that a move of Nice Country would have no effect on plans for his and Cy Coleman's musical, The Life, which is still searching for a Broadway home. "We're talking to the Shuberts, the Nederlanders and other theatre owners," Gasman said of The Life. "The show won't go out of town first, but it's pretty much there -- though every musical tinkers until opening night. We've got Michael Blakemore directing, so we're very confident."
An original member of Lehman Engel's BMI Workshop, Gasman's previous credits include writing lyrics and specialty material for The Great Radio City Music Hall Spectacular. Hofman began his career as a jingle and country songwriter and then went on to co-found (with his wife, Suzanne) the stand-up comedy club, Stand-Up New York. For tickets ($25) and information on What's A Nice Country Like You Doing In A State Like This? call (212) 239-6200.
-- By David Lefkowitz