Jessie Mueller, Josh Young, Matt Doyle and Josh Grisetti Cast in Rags Workshop for Roundabout; Gordon Greenberg Directs
By Adam Hetrick
Gordon Greenberg will stage a workshop of the short-lived 1986 Broadway musical Rags, starring Tony Award nominee Jessie Mueller as Rebecca, for the Roundabout Theatre Company in June.
In recent years Greenberg helped shepherd the troubled musicals Working and The Baker's Wife back to the stage to strong critical response. Both musicals feature scores by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin), who penned lyrics for Rags.
The musical about the immigrant experience in America at the turn of the century boasts music by Tony winner Charles Strouse (Annie, Bye Bye Birdie) and a book by late Tony Award winner Joseph Stein (Fiddler on the Roof, Zorba).
"Stephen Schwartz and I were eager to find another project to examine together. We both get excited by the Rubik's Cube of musical theatre structure – and we share a passion for tinkering. So this is the perfect show to work on," Greenberg said.
Greenberg and Schwartz have been working from seven different versions of Rags as they prepare for the workshop. Musical supervisor David Chase (Cinderella, Evita, Curtains) is also on board for the new version, which incorporates musical sequences not seen since the Boston out-of-town try-outs of Rags. The workshop will culminate in a June 25 private presentation.
When asked if Rags was being groomed for a potential revival, a representative for the Roundabout told Playbill.com that the musical was "one of many internal readings Roundabout is working on."
According to Greenberg, the new incarnation "streamlines the book, introduces characters more gradually, and feels both operatic and human in scale. It's a tremendous score – and a hugely compelling American story.
"This is an entirely new version of the show that I have been working on for several months with David Chase. We're using elements from virtually every incarnation of the show – from the first sitzprobe in Boston to Broadway previews and onward through the years. We've had access to an incredible library of resources between Charles Strouse's magical closet and Wayne Blood at Rodgers & Hammerstein, who is a Rags expert."
In addition to Mueller (Nice Work If You Can Get It, Into the Woods, On a Clear Day) as Rebecca, the workshop cast will include Matt Doyle as Ben, Tony Award nominee Josh Young as Saul, Josh Grisetti as Nathan, Anne L. Nathan as Anna, Adam Heller as Avram, Clarke Thorell as Big Tim Sullivan, John Treacy Egan as Mike, Joel Hatch as Jack, Alison Cimmet as Yiddish Ophelia and Donna Vivino as Rosa.
Casting for the role of Bella Cohen, who sings the driving title song, is underway. Tony nominee Judy Kuhn originated the role in 1986.
Stand-outs from the score include "Children of the Wind," "Brand New World," "Yankee Boy," "Blame It On the Summer Night," "Dancing With the Fools" and the title song. Rags played 22 performances on Broadway in the summer of 1986 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre. It earned seven Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score.
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