"The Band Wagon" Has a New Shine on Its Shoes in Dancing in the Dark March 4-April 13

By Kenneth Jones
04 Mar 2008

Mara Davi and Scott Bakula in rehearsal.
Mara Davi and Scott Bakula in rehearsal.
Photo by Sandy Huffaker

The troupers of the new musical Dancing in the Dark — based on the M-G-M picture "The Band Wagon" — begin "waltzing in the wonder of why we're here," as the song goes, March 4 at The Old Globe in San Diego.

Tony Award nominee Scott Bakula, star of TV's "Quantum Leap" and Broadway's Romance/Romance, plays song-and-dance man Tony Hunter, a role created by Fred Astaire in 1953 but reinvented by librettist Douglas Carter Beane (Xanadu, The Little Dog Laughed, As Bees in Honey Drown) for this new stage version, officially opening March 13 in California.

Tony Award nominee Beane previously told Playbill.com that Tony Hunter has been revised for Dancing in the Dark (as have other elements of the source material): Now, Tony is more Bing Crosby showman than Astaire athlete, Beane said.

The backstage musical, directed by Gary Griffin (The Color Purple) and choreographed by Warren Carlyle (an Encores! veteran), plays a world premiere run at The Old Globe through April 13.

Like the beloved movie musical before it, Dancing in the Dark has music by Arthur Schwartz and lyrics by Howard Dietz, drawing on their songbook of musical numbers they wrote for Broadway revues in the 1930s. "That's Entertainment" was written for the movie, and remains a major anthem in Dancing in the Dark. Beane said that other songs from the catalog of the late songwriting team have been interpolated into the show (including "Something You Never Had Before" from the 1961 musical The Gay Life).



Expect the film's famous numbers, including "A Shine on Your Shoes," "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan," "Louisiana Hayride," "I Love Louisa," "Triplets" and more.

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The musical draws on the picture's original screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The writers' studio contract ended in the middle of the project, which is the reason why the second half of the picture seems to turn into a montage-filled revue, Beane said. The playwright told Playbill.com that his goal is to honor "Betty and Adolph" and flesh out stories, deepen characters and marry music to moments. The lengthy "detective ballet" at the end of the film (apparently partly created by Alan Jay Lerner) is not in the new stage version.

As previously reported, the principal cast also includes Sebastian LaCause (The Rocky Horror Show, Once Upon a Mattress and Chicago) as Paul Byrd, a modern-dance choreographer; Mara Davi (A Chorus Line, The Drowsy Chaperone) as modern dancer Gaby, who is crossing over into musicals and catching the eye of Tony; Tony Award winner Beth Leavel (The Drowsy Chaperone) and Adam Heller (Make Me a Song) as Lily and Lester Marton, performers and musical comedy writers — think Comden and Green — who are old pals of Tony's; and Patrick Page (The Lion King, How the Grinch Stole Christmas) as Jeffrey Cordova, the artsy legit director who turns a traditional musical into a pretentious mess.

Benjamin Howes will play Hal, the stage manager, a role "built up" in the show; and Jacob Ben Widmar will play a chorus boy named Teddy, based on Ted Hook — the chorus boy turned restaurateur.

The troupe also includes Rachel Coloff, Dylis Croman, Nicolas Dromard, Cara Kjellman, Adam Perry, Eric Santagata, Kiira Schmidt, Branch Woodman and Ashley Yeater.

According to The Old Globe, "In Dancing in the Dark, Tony Hunter is a Hollywood star with a career on the wane. Jeffrey Cordova is a Shakespearean actor-manager with a taste for high art. Together they team up with a diverse assortment of theatrical personalities to create a new musical that's strictly 'entertainment.' With a score packed with classics like 'A Shine on Your Shoes,' that quintessential ode to show business 'That's Entertainment!,' and the title song, Dancing in the Dark is the musical comedy that will have audiences dancing in the aisles."

Music supervisor is Eric Stern, music director is Don York and orchestrator is Larry Hochman. The design team includes scenic designer John Lee Beatty, costume designer David Woolard, lighting designer Ken Billington, sound designer Brian Ronan. Stage manager is Dan Rosokoff.

Bakula is a 1988 Tony Award nominee as Best Actor in a Musical for Romance/Romance, and a Drama Desk nominee for 3 Guys Naked From the Waist Down. The four-time Emmy Award nominee starred in TV's time-traveling series, "Quantum Leap" (for which he won a Golden Globe Award), "Star Trek: Enterprise" (as Capt. Jonathan Archer) and was Murphy Brown's beau on the sitcom "Murphy Brown."

At Ford's Theatre in 2006, he starred as the patriarch Charlie Anderson in Shenandoah. On Jan. 18 he performed a concert in Washington, DC, to benefit the historic Ford's Theatre. Bakula's other Broadway credits are Marilyn (he played Joe DiMaggio) and Is There Life After High School?

The Old Globe is at 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park. For more information call (619) 23-GLOBE or visit www.TheOldGlobe.org.