The once Broadway-bound Shine!, a rags to-riches musical comedy inspired by the Horatio Alger character Ragged Dick, will get a cast recording on the Original Cast Records label Oct. 16.
The 21-track recording represents the company and songs heard for a piano-and-voice staged reading of the work in April 2001 in New York City for the National Music Theatre Network's "Broadway USA!" series. The cast later went into a studio to document the work, and orchestrations by Wade Tonken were added. The company includes Jeremiah Miller, James Celentano, Daniel Frank Kelley, Tim Ewing, Harvey Evans, Bill Buell, Brooks Ashmanskas, J. Brandon Savage, Andrea Burns, Matt Shepard, Carole Shelley, Rose McGuire, Wynne Anders, Francine Lobis, Marguerite Shannon, Tim Howard, Tim Salamandyk and John Summerford.
Drawing on Alger books and characters, including the scrappy shoe-shine boy known as "Ragged Dick," the onetime Broadway aimed project had a previous regional production in the 1980s and a reading at the York Theatre in 1998. The newly-revised book is by original librettist Richard Seff, the score is by composer Roger Anderson and lyricist Lee Goldsmith. The creators are hoping the album's wider exposure in stores will prompt a workshop, regional or commercial staging of the patriotic work, set in Manhattan during the summer of the U.S. centennial (in rewrites, a song called "The Second Hundred Years," set in Union Square on July 4, was shelved and replaced with "Look How Far We've Come").
"I think it belongs on Broadway, but that's because I wrote it," Seff told Playbill On-Line. "It suddenly seems topical: How the good old days in New York are better and how we want it to be better again."
Shine! was announced for Broadway in 1982 but got scuttled when producer 20th Century Fox went through management changes and the theatre division was disbanded, according to the collaborators.
Peter Flynn directed and Georgia Stitt musical directed the 2001 reading. Newcomer Jeremiah Miller was the young shoe-shining hero, Dick. Songs in the score include "Keeping Up With the Times," "A Handful O' Hops," "Cock and Bull," "Maybe Today," "Wall Street Lament," "Shine," "Silas Snobden, Inc.," "Partners," "Someone," "Look How Far We've Come," "Respectable" and more.
A reading directed by Jay Binder was seen in 1998 at Off Broadway's York Theatre Company, with Christopher Fitzgerald and Laura Benanti. An earlier version of the show, about shoeshine boys in 1876 New York City, was seen in 1983 at the Museum Theatre in Richmond, VA, featuring George Lee Andrews and Alix Korey. Seff told Playbill On-Line narrative clarifications have been made and several new songs have been written, restored or scrapped since earlier versions in 1983 and 1998.
Broadway lyricist-director Martin Charnin selected Shine! to be part of the NMTN showcase. It's not a surprise that Charnin might be attracted to the score and flavor of Shine! Observers say although the show does have the grit of Oliver!, it also has the innocent American feel of Charnin's Annie.
Composer Anderson and lyricist Goldsmith won a South Florida Carbonell Award for their musical, Chaplin. Seff is a former agent whose play, Paris is Out!, was produced on Broadway. He recently appeared as the elder Ruskin in Off-Broadway's The Countess.
In program notes, Seff wrote: "Shine is an original musical comedy based on characters and situations found in the works of Horatio Alger, particularly 'Ragged Dick' and 'Silas Snobden's Office Boy.' We've borrowed characters from both novels, youthened some, aged others, re-invented a few, created a few of our own. We stuck with Alger's pervasive theme: That in America one could begin with nothing, and with the right attitude, hard work, application and a little bit of luck, dream a dream and chart a course on which to achieve it."
— By Kenneth Jones