Brian d'Arcy James Plays The Front in Reading of New Musical in NYC

By Kenneth Jones
25 Feb 2008

Brian d'Arcy James
Brian d'Arcy James
Photo by Ben Strothmann

The Front, the new musical by Tony Award nominee Paul Gordon and collaborators Jay Gruska and Seth Friedman, is in rehearsal toward a March 3 industry reading in Manhattan, Playbill.com has learned.

Brian d'Arcy James (currently starring in Off-Broadway's Next to Normal), Richard Kind (Bounce) and Jayne Paterson (a Les Miz veteran) are among performers in the reading, which began rehearsals Feb. 25.

John Caird (co-director of Les Misérables and Jane Eyre) and Nell Balaban are co-directing the reading, which represents the latest draft of the show that is inspired by the 1976 movie about a nebbishy writer asked to put his name on the work of blacklisted screenwriters in the communist witch hunt of the 1950s.

"It's a great reflection of what's been happening in the country in the last eight years," Gordon said of the musical's plot. "It's a great love story, but the backdrop is political and topical."

Martin Ritt directed the picture, which starred Woody Allen in the title role. The screenplay is by Walter Bernstein.



Composer-lyricist Gordon was Tony-nominated for Best Score in 2001 for his musical Jane Eyre. He also penned a new musical, Emma, seen at TheatreWorks in California and expected to emerge in a regional theatre co-production in fall 2008.

For The Front, Gordon co-wrote both music and lyrics with Gruska. Book and additional lyrics are by Friedman.

The sound of the new score is said to be Big Band meets Swing — a different flavor for Gordon, whose recent shows were drawn from 19th-century Brit lit that asked him to be alternately emotionally turbulent (Jane Eyre, from Brontë) and romantically genteel (Emma, from Austen).

Janet Robinson and Edward Richard are attached as producers of The Front, which was also seen in a private Manhattan Theatre Club reading in 2007.

James plays the Woody Allen role, Kind plays the Zero Mostel role and Paterson is the love interest, Florence, created in the film by Andrea Marcovicci. The reading will also feature Clarke Thorell, Richard Roland, Peter McRobbie, Philip Hoffman, Jason Kravits, Eric Michael Gillette, Daniel Bogart, Amy Rutberg, Suzanne Grodner, Bobby Creighton and Eydie Alyson. Brad Ellis is musical director.

For industry inquiries about The Front, write to pauleeg@aol.com.