PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Aug. 2-9: First Date Opens on Broadway, Harbor Docks at 59E59 and Pal Joey Makes a Friend at Arkansas Rep

By Robert Simonson
09 Aug 2013

Orson Welles
Someone down there in the Ozarks is booking shows that make headlines. The latest news from the suddenly newsworthy ART is a re-conceived version of the Rodgers and Hart quasi-classic Pal Joey, due to begin performances Sept. 4.

Pal Joey has always been a troubled child of the famed composing duo, loved for its timeless score, but weighed down by an unlikeable protagonist. The John O'Hara libretto is routinely tinkered with every few years. Much like how the women in the musical feel toward Joey, directors and writers feel almost motherly toward the misguided show, always sure they're the one that can save the poor boy from himself.

This particular staging, which is directed by Peter Schneider, has a new book by Patrick Pacheco, who is known in theatre circles for his work as a journalist. Pacheco has addressed the story's problems by altering the race of some of the characters. Playboy-on-the-make Joey is now African-American. Within Joey's love triangle, Vera is white, and Linda is black. Additionally, the creators have introducing a white male pianist  who also falls in love with Joey.

In case those character twists don't grip you, the production also gooses the score by adding a few other songs from the Rodgers and Hart catalog, including "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Sing for Your Supper" and "Glad to Be Unhappy."


A early bit of Broadway history, long thought lost, was found this week in a warehouse in the Italian Pordenone.

The item is a short film created by Orson Welles — his first. It was meant to be shown with Too Much Johnson, a revival of an 1894 stage farce that the 23-year-old Welles intended to bring to Broadway for the 1938 season of his Mercury Theater.

Welles never finished editing the footage he shot — about 25,000 feet, or nearly four hours worth — and when the play, written by the celebrated actor William Gillette as a vehicle for himself, folded out of town, after a disastrous preview in Stony Creek, CT, Welles abandoned the project. The film had presumably been lost in a fire that destroyed Welles' villa in Spain. 

After the footage was discovered, it was turned over to the George Eastman House in Rochester. The process of stabilizing the film and transferring it to modern safety stock is proceeding with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.