EXCLUSIVE: Sutton Foster and Craig Bierko to Star in Molly Brown Musical Reading

By Kenneth Jones
30 Apr 2010

Sutton Foster and Craig Bierko will test a new version of the Meredith Willson musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown in a two-week Manhattan reading starting the week of May 3. Kathleen Marshall will direct and choreograph.



Tony Award-nominated librettist Dick Scanlan, who co-wrote Broadway's current Everyday Rapture, and penned the Foster vehicle Thoroughly Modern Millie, told Playbill.com columnist Harry Haun that Foster (Shrek the Musical, Little Women, The Drowsy Chaperone) will play low-born Molly, who flirted with Denver high society and survived the sinking of the Titanic. Bierko (The Music Man) will play her love, James Joseph "J.J." Brown (played first by Harve Presnell as "Leadville" Johnny Brown). Tammy Grimes won a Tony for creating the title role on Broadway.

Scanlan said, "Michael Rafter is the music supervisor [as he is for Everyday Rapture], and, in that show, that's a very good job because we're only using part of the original score — and, for the rest of the show, we've gone into Meredith Willson's trunk.

"I'm the first person who has ever been allowed in that trunk, and I found piles of wonderful songs that nobody knows, so Michael Rafter's building those into a score that sounds like one unified score."

Scanlan has written a brand-new libretto that eliminates all of the other characters except for the two leads.

"There are similarities in the characters of 'J.J.' and Molly, but the lines that they are saying and the story they are in is different from the 1960 version," Scanlan said. Richard Morris wrote the original libretto. Willson is best known for writing book, music and lyrics for The Music Man.

"We start next week, and we rehearse for two weeks," he said on the April 29 opening night of Everyday Rapture. "I'll know about the timetable after the reading — whether it's 'Oh, boy, we should do a production of this' or 'I have to go back and rework things.' The reading will tell me when it's time to do this.'"

Read a Playbill.com story about the revised Molly Brown's earlier reading here.