Seemingly out of nowhere last season, word appeared in the trades about a new musical-comedy that westernized Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and was targeting a spring Broadway opening. Well, a theatre crunch on the Great White Way kept Lone Star Love, or The Merry Wives of Windsor, Texas from reaching New York City then, but that doesn't mean the show doesn't have big future plans.
"This project is my baby...we've been working on it for 12 years," producer and author John Haber told Playbill On-Line (Sept. 22). "It started at the Alley Theatre in Houston in 1988, followed by a regional staging in 1989 at Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, then at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park in 1994. Then we had two developmental workshops in New York City, staged by Michael Bogdanov [December 1996 and April 1999]."
Haber heads the Falstaff in Love production company, which is also being backed by the Kennedy Center and Dodger Theatricals on this project. Haber, who serves as director of special events for the Dodgers, said, "They've been wonderful in terms of shepherding the project along."
And what exactly is Lone Star Love? "It's a cowboy Western, with music not normally what you hear on Broadway," Haber said. "Very eclectic, with a vast array of American sounds." That won't surprise people familiar with The Red Clay Ramblers, the show's musicians -- themselves best known for backing Bill Irwin and David Shiner's mime antics in Fool Moon. Lone Star Love, set in the American Southwest, is conceived and adapted by Haber, with music and lyrics by Jack Herrick and other "contributions" by Michael Bogdanov, Bland Simpson and Thommy Thompson.
With Bogdanov directing and Patricia Birch (Parade) choreographing, the show is hoping to come directly to New York -- though not necessarily to Broadway first. "We'd like to begin in an alternative space theatre," Haber told Playbill On-Line, "then have the full potential to move to Broadway... Capitalization is still being worked on." Designers are already in place for the piece, with Tom Morris (Fool Moon) on sound design, Derek McLane on sets, and Brian MacDevitt (Fuddy Meers, Side Show and True West on lighting. (MacDevitt had been scheduled to light The Visit, but that show has been indefinitely postponed owing to star Angela Lansbury bowing out to be with her family.)
On the production side, Steve David, Company Manager for Titanic and Kat and the Kings, will be General Manager, with Peter Fulbright serving as Production Manager, and Frank Hartenstein as Production Stage Manager. Malcolm Ransom has been chosen for Fight Director. Though contracts are still pending for actors, it's expected that most of the folks appearing in the 1999 workshop will return for the show. That includes the aforementioned Red Clay Ramblers, Beth Leavel (The Civil War, Show Boat), Clarke Thorell (Tommy, OB's Saturday Night), Shuler Hensley (an Olivier Award winner for Oklahoma!), Kay McClelland (City of Angels), Gary Sandy ("WKRP in Cincinnati"), Stephen Temperley (Crazy For You), John Jellison (imPerfect Chemistry, Putting It Together) and Kevin Carolan (a standby in Bway's Dirty Blonde). Alice Ripley had been in the workshop but is now committed to Rocky Horror at Circle in the Square.
-- By David Lefkowitz