Wedded Blisters: First Wives Club, With Ralph, Walsh and Ziemba, Opens at Old Globe

By Kenneth Jones
July 31, 2009

They brood, they bend, they break, they bond and they sing. These are the rituals of members of The First Wives Club The Musical, opening in its world premiere July 31 in San Diego, CA.

The Broadway-aimed musical about three women mistreated by their men pulses to an original score by Motown and pop team Holland-Dozier-Holland, and features Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba and Tony nominees Sheryl Lee Ralph and Barbara Walsh.

The Old Globe in San Diego is producing the musical inspired by the Olivia Goldsmith novel and hit film of the same name. Francesca Zambello (The Little Mermaid, Little House on the Prairie) directs; the libretto is by Tony Award winner Rupert Holmes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Curtains, Say Goodnight Gracie). Previews began July 17. The run was recently extended by one week. It will close Aug. 30.

The legendary songwriting team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland created hits for Martha and The Vandellas, The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and The Supremes. Their song catalog includes "(Love is Like a) Heat Wave," "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)," "Baby Love," "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "You Keep Me Hangin' On." The Motown hit-makers and Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductees disbanded in the 1970s but have reunited for the new musical comedy.

According to the Old Globe, "The First Wives Club is a funny, moving and empowering new musical based on the smash-hit movie comedy and Olivia Goldsmith's bestselling novel. Former college friends reunite at middle-age and soon discover they share the same unhappy story their ungrateful husbands careened into midlife by dumping them for younger women. Inspired by their renewed friendship, the three women band together and take back their lives in style!"

Ralph received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls (she played Deena Jones). She also originated the role of Muzzy Van Hossmere in the Tony Award-winning musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie. She's joined onstage by Tony nominee Barbara Walsh (Company, Big, Falsettos) as Brenda, Tony winner Karen Ziemba (Contact, Curtains) as Annie, Tony nominee John Dossett (Gypsy) as Aaron, Kevyn Morrow (Dreamgirls) as Bill, Tony nominee Brad Oscar (The Producers) as Morty, Sara Chase as Trophy Wife and Tony nominee Sam Harris (The Life) as Duane with Ari Lerner and Austyn Myers alternating as Jason. The cast also includes Michelle Aravena, Mark Campbell, Thursday Farrar, Jenifer Foote, Bob Gaynor, Matthew LaBanca, Victoria Matlock, Kat Palardy, Martin Samuel and Richard Waits.

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The popular 1996 Paramount film "The First Wives Club" was based on Goldsmith's novel and featured a screenplay by Robert Harling. The motion picture grossed over $130 million and starred Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton.

Following its run at The Old Globe, The First Wives Club will be produced on Broadway by Paul Lambert and Jonas Neilson, with a theatre and dates to be announced.

The creative team for the musical includes scenic designer Peter J. Davison (Medea, for which he was nominated for a 1994 Tony Award), costume designer Paul Tazewell (Tony nominee in 2008 for In The Heights, in 2006 for The Color Purple and in 1996 for Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk), lighting designer Mark McCullough, sound designer Jon Weston, choreographer Lisa Stevens, music supervisor Ron Melrose, conductor John Gentry Tennyson and orchestrator Harold Wheeler.

Tickets to First Wives Club The Musical are currently available by contacting the Globe Box Office at (619) 23-GLOBE or online at www.TheOldGlobe.org or in person at the box office at 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park.