A New Brain composer William Finn has begun a two-year residency at East Haddam, Connecticut's Goodspeed Opera House, lasting through August of 2000. The sponsorship is made possible by a National Theatre Artists Residency Program grant from Theatre Communications Group and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
During his stay, Finn will develop a new musical titled Hitchhiking Across America. He will be provided with lodging in East Haddam and have use of the Goodspeed's resident staff and the Library of Musical Theatre. Goodspeed spokesman Jennifer Wislocki said the only information they have about the new musical's subject matter is that it is, naturally, about hitchhiking across America. The musical will not necessarily have its premiere at Goodspeed, said Wislocki.
Finn's best known work has been the "Marvin" trilogy, culminating in Broadway's Falsettos. A New Brain recently closed Off Broadway and is to be released on CD by RCA Victor Sept. 15.
Finn is currently at the Goodspeed, advising the artistic team behind Redhead, the theatre's upcoming production. Redhead, a rarely-revived 1959 murder mystery vehicle for Gwen Verdon, will close the company's mainstage season Sept. 23 to Dec. 13.
Verdon played Essie Whimple, a worker in a wax museum who tries to solve the murder of a local music hall dance hostess while pursuing the man of her dreams. The score, by Albert Hague and Dorothy Fields, includes "Look Who's in Love." Other Hague scores include Plain and Fancy, Cafe Crown and TV's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The book was written by Herbert and Dorothy Fields, Sidney Sheldon (the famous mystery novel author David Shaw. Goodspeed's Redhead will be directed by Christopher Ashley, who staged last season's Lucky in the Rain at Goodspeed.
In other Goodspeed news: Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt's Mirette, about a little girl who dreams of becoming a tightrope walker, plays through Sept. 18. The piece was developed at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre in 1996. A song from Mirette was featured in (and provided the title for) Jones & Schmidt's hit Off Broadway revue The Show Goes On.
Mirette has a book by Elizabeth Diggs, based on the children's book, Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully. Ten-year-old Mirette, who helps her mother run a boarding house for actors in 1890s Paris, is inspired by a former tightrope walker, The Great Bellini. In the course of the story she helps him overcome the paralyzing fear that has destroyed his career.
It's the latest work from the team that produced I Do! I Do!, 110 in the Shade, Celebration, and Off-Broadway's The Fantasticks, the longest-running musical in the world (now in its 38th year).
The cast features Cassandra Kubinski (who played the title role in Goodspeed's 1997 revival of Annie) as Mirette, and James J. Mellon as Bellini.
Also in the cast: Anne Allgood as Madame Gateau (Mirette's mother), plus Marsha Bagwell, September Bigelow, Paul Blankenship, Bob Freschi, Michael Hayward-Jones, Leslie Ann Hendricks, Timothy Charles Johnson, Steve Pudenz, Amanda Watkins, Carrie Wilshusen and Jason Wooten.
Andre Ernotte (The Philanthropist, Goblin Market) will direct, with choreography by Janet Watson, sets by Neil Patel, costumes by Suzy Benzinger, orchestrations by Larry Moore and musical direction by Michael O'Flaherty.
The Goodspeed's second stage, the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, opened with Cy Coleman's Exactly Like You (May 7-31) and will gear up for Just So, a musical based on Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories." The musical arrives Nov. 5 and runs to Dec. 13 (recently extended from Nov. 29), co-produced by British impresario Cameron Mackintosh (The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables).
With music by George Stiles, book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, Just So includes classic Kipling tales such as "How the Leopard Got His Spots," "How the Elephant Got His Trunk," "How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin," and other tales, built around the coming-of-age of the Elephant Child. Joey McKneely choreographs.
Stiles and Drewe collaborated previously on British musicals Warts and All, Navel Fluff and Other Trivial Pursuits and Honk!. Stiles also wrote music for adaptations of Moll Flanders, Tom Jones, and The Three Musketeers.
For tickets to Goodspeed shows call (860) 873-8668. Previous musicals over 15 years at Goodspeed at Chester have included john & jen and Swinging on a Star.
In other Goodspeed news, the search is on for a new general manager; Howard Sherman will leave the company in August to become managing director of upstate NY's Geva Theatre.
For information on Goodspeed shows call (860) 873-8668.