The new Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman musical, Wise Guys will appear in a workshop production at the New York Theatre Workshop in November, probably with long rumored stars Nathan Lane and Victor Garber. Cabaret's Sam Mendes will direct.
The producers -- Scott Rudin, Roger Berlind, Dodger Theatricals and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts -- had a secret reading of the script and score on April 30. Tickets for the workshop production will only be available to New York Theatre Workshop members. No public tickets will be available.
As first reported by Playbill On-Line earlier this year, the new Stephen Sondheim musical, Wise Guys, may be heading for Broadway come next season, with Lane and Garber as its stars and Sam Mendes directing.
A spokesman for the Gersh Agency's Bill Butler, who reps Garber, said Wise Guys would arrive in New York in late 1999 and that Lane and Garber would head the cast. In past years, both actors have participated in readings of the musical. Lane's publicist declined to comment. However, Lane told talk show host David Letterman on Dec. 31, 1998 that he would be acting in a new Sondheim piece come fall. Though he did not mention the name of the musical, it is most likely Wise Guys, the vaudeville-style biography of the eccentric brothers Wilson and Addison Mizner, which the composer has been working on for several years. A spokesperson from Sondheim's office declined to comment on the project (Jan. 4).
Sam Mendes, who directed Cabaret and The Blue Room, is the desired director for the project, said Weidman's rep Jeremy Nussbaum. The show will workshop in the spring. Roger Berlind and Scott Rudin will produce, said Nussbaum, who added that he consider the projected fall arrival date as a little unlikely.
Wise Guys was commissioned by the Kennedy Center in DC and was originally scheduled to open in fall 1996. Since then, it has been repeatedly postponed, though at least two readings have been done in New York, one on March 27, 1997 featuring Victor Garber as Wilson, the other on Nov. 8, 1997 with Garber as Wilson and Lane as Addison. Also taking part in the November reading were Debra Monk as Mama Mizner plus an ensemble consisting of Ray Wills, Greg Jbara, William Parry and Randy Graff.
The November reading consisted of most of the first act, including an opening number (which actually consists of four songs, one of them called "Wise Guys"), followed by "Benicia," "Gold," "Next to You," "Addison's Trip Around the World," "Dowagers," "The Good Life" and "The Game."
Both readings were produced by Ira Weitzman.
When it finally opens, Wise Guys will be Sondheim's first complete theatre score since Passion in 1994. The longest previous gap between Sondheim stage musical openings was the five years between Do I Hear a Waltz and Company. Sondheim turned 68 in March.