Life has been busy for veteran librettist Peter Stone the past couple of Broadway seasons. He has seen new shows staged to success (Titanic) and old shows revived to acclaim (1776). Now, he is again on Broadway, in yet another capacity. The producers selected him to revise and update the Herbert and Dorothy Fields book to the classic Irving Berlin musical, Annie Gets Your Gun, which opens on Mar. 4. Stone talked to Playbill On-Line about making Annie Get Your Gun p.c. and losing out to T.S.
Playbill On-Line: What was the biggest challenge working on Annie Get Your Gun?
Peter Stone: The big challenge is taking a book that was wonderfully crafted for its time and make it wonderfully crafted for our time. Annie Get Your Gun bore little resemblance to a show you could do today, in respect to consistency of character, the relationships between people, the relevance of certain songs as they came in. Also, we were dealing with what is, frankly -- well, I don't want to use the term "politically incorrect," though that's the term that's floating around these days. It was terribly insensitive, as we all were then, to Indians. It wasn't the fault of anybody. But it had to be dealt with in a way that was heartfelt and not obvious.
PBOL: Revising another writer's work, do you feel like a cultural carpetbagger?
PS: Not really. I'm president of the Dramatists Guild and I'm very sensitive to that. I've doctored six Broadway shows, always with the permission of the authors. In this case, it was with the permission of the heirs. They're terribly pleased with it all. I would not change it against the wishes of the copyright owner.
PBOL: Who is your favorite person in theatre today?
PS: Today? That's awfully hard to say without slighting somebody. I greatly enjoyed working with Kander and Ebb. I enjoyed working with Maury Yeston very much.
PS: I think I already did it. It would have to be 1776 . I'll never do anything like that again. That was a charmed project from the start. I've never had a show that turned out exactly the way it was supposed to be.
PBOL: What credit couldn't you wait to get off your resume?
PS: All the shows I did in the theatre I rather enjoyed. Even Skyscraper, which was the least talked about, but had terrific things in it. People joke about Skyscraper, but I enjoyed working on it. I've had films I wish I'd never done. I did a film with Paul Newman and it was taken away by the director and turned into nothing I intended it to be.
PBOL: What is the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you in the theatre?
PS: I guess when they announced the winner of the Tonys the year Cats won. I had done My One and Only that year. And I was up on my feet when they announced Cats. Cats had no book! It never pretended to have a book. I was a step or two down the aisle and had to slink back to my chair. I was amazing that it happened. It still is amazing to me!
--By Robert Simonson