Goodspeed Has Its Druthers: Li'l Abner Croons in CT Starting April 21

By Kenneth Jones
21 Apr 2006

Christeena Riggs with Glenn Lawrence in Li’l Abner.
Christeena Riggs with Glenn Lawrence in Li’l Abner.
Photo by Photo by Diane Sobolewski.

Li'l Abner, the musical that mixes the comic-strip Cold War satire of Al Capp and the show tunes of Johnny Mercer and Gene dePaul, gets revived at Goodspeed Opera House beginning April 21.

The musical inspired by Capp's comic strip, set in Southern and rural Dogpatch USA, is directed by Scott Schwartz (Golda's Balcony, Bat Boy) and choreographed by Patti Colombo (Peter Pan).

"From Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul, Li'l Abner features a book by Norman Panama and Melvin Frank, based on the comic strip created by Al Capp," according to Goodspeed. "Trouble begins in the cornseed town of Dogpatch, USA when the government decides to wipe it off the map. Hilarious protests and a riotous Sadie Hawkins Day chase ensue."

The score includes "If I Had My Druthers," "Jubilation T. Cornpone," "Love in a Home," "Progress Is the Root of All Evil" and "The Country's in the Very Best of Hands."

Winner of two Tony Awards, Li'l Abner was first directed and choreographed by Michael Kidd. It opened Nov. 15, 1956 at Broadway's St. James Theatre and played for 693 performances. Perhaps because it's too sexy, perhaps because the comic strip ended years ago, perhaps because its period satire was too much a product of its time, the show is not often revived by major theatres (the Manhattan concert series Encores! presented a concert version in recent years), and therefore isn't a part of the public consciousness today.



"We are looking at Li'l Abner as if it's a new musical written for today," Schwartz told Playbill.com. "Our goal is to honor the style and humor and spirit of the original but to find ways to make the show feel contemporary for a modern audience. We have not rewritten the script. We've stayed loyal to the original text but have found opportunities for 2006 references which are as contemporary as the political references in the original were contemporary in 1956."

The Goodspeed Musicals production continues to July 2.

The cast features Glenn Lawrence, a recent graduate from the University of Hartford's Hartt School, in the title role, and Curt Buckler as Earthquake McGoon; Trent Armand Kendall as Marryin' Sam; William McCauley as General Bullmoose; Michele Ragusa as Appassionata Von Climax; Christeena Riggs (Broadway's Les Misérables and Jane Eyre) as Daisy Mae; Andrea Wolff and John Shuman as Mammy and Pappy Yokum; Paul Aguirre as Romeo Scragg; Larry Daggett as Dr. Finsdale; Dick Decareau as Senator Phogbound; Jeff Hiller as Available Jones; Nick Locilento as Mayor Dawgmeat; Sarrah Strimel as Stupifyin' Jones; Christopher Windom as Evil Eye Fleagle, with Jennifer Balagna, Adriene Couvillion, Ryan Donovan, Krista Kurtzberg, Kate Marilley, Eddie Rabon, Shane Rhoades, Mark Roland and Shorey Walker, Dante Russo, Ginger Child Smith, and Marcellus Waller.

The sexy musical satire opens Goodspeed's 2006 season.

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"We are delighted to kick-off the 2006 season with such a fun musical, especially one that is perfect for the whole family," stated Michael P. Price, Goodspeed executive director. "It's a great way to start an exciting year for Goodspeed that will continue with productions of Pippin and Pirates of Penzance, as well as our three productions at The Norma Terris Theatre."

The musical director for Li'l Abner is Michael O'Flaherty, in his 15th season as Goodspeed’s resident music director. William J. Thomas (Goodspeed's Abyssinia, Me and My Girl and George M! ) is assistant music director, with orchestrations by Dan DeLange, who provided the orchestration for Goodspeed Musicals' Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend, among others. Sets are designed by David Gallo (Goodspeed Musicals' Kudzu), with costumes designed by Michael Krass (Goodspeed's Kiss Me, Kate). Lighting is designed by Kirk Bookman (Goodspeed's Abyssinia, Mack & Mabel and Broadway's Band in Berlin, The Sunshine Boys and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). Li'l Abner is produced for Goodspeed Musicals by Michael P. Price.

For more information, visit www.goodspeed.org.

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Dedicated to the preservation and advancement of musical theatre, Goodspeed Musicals produces three musicals each season at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, and an additional three at The Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT., which opened in 1984 for the development of new musicals.