Kathleen Marshall on Bringing Revised The Unsinkable Molly Brown to the Surface
03 Aug 2014
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Tony-winning director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall shares the story behind the revised production of the musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
"There's such a wonderful heart at the center of this show," three-time Tony-winning director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall says. "It's great to take a classic American musical comedy and reinvigorate it. We want people to fall in love with the show in 2014 just as they fell in love with it originally."
Marshall is talking about The Unsinkable Molly Brown, the 1960 Meredith Willson–Richard Morris musical about a young woman who moves to Colorado, finds love and riches, heads off to Europe to join high society and famously survives the sinking of the Titanic. A revised version — the original ran for 532 performances on Broadway, winning a Tony for Tammy Grimes in the title role — begins next month at the Denver Center Theatre Company in (appropriately) Colorado. Marshall directs and choreographs.
Beth Malone, who starred last season in the award-winning Off-Broadway musical Fun Home, is this year's Molly. (Debbie Reynolds portrayed her in the movie; Sutton Foster played the role in 2010 and 2011 readings.) Molly — which followed Willson's 1957 megahit The Music Man — has a new book by Dick Scanlan (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Everyday Rapture), a three-time Tony nominee.
How is this Molly different from the first Molly? "We wanted to reinvent it for a contemporary audience and give it a bit more accuracy in terms of her life," says Marshall, who won her Tonys for Wonderful Town, The Pajama Game and Anything Goes. The 1960 Molly, she says, "had a lot of spirit and a wonderful score," but Morris's book "didn't pay as close attention to the realities of her life. We want to concentrate on that a little more, have more depth about her relationship with J. J. Brown, her husband. It's not only a story about her. It's about a relationship and a marriage and how they find each other, how they stick together, how they weather all kinds of storms through their marriage."
Holed up in a seedy motel on the edge of the Mojave Desert, two former lovers unpack the deep secrets and dark desires of their tangled relationship, passionately tearing each other apart. Led by director Daniel Aukin (Back Back Back at MTC, 4,000 Miles), Tony winner Nina Arianda (Venus in Fur at MTC, Born Yesterday) and Sam Rockwell (A Behanding in Spokane, The Way Way Back) bring an explosive intensity to Sam Shepard’s (Buried Child, True West) landmark myth of the new Wild West.