Scott Bakula, Mara Davi and the other troupers of the new musical based on the M-G-M movie classic, "The Band Wagon," are under the direction of acclaimed director Gary Griffin, whose work has been seen in Chicago, London and on Broadway. He staged Broadway's The Color Purple, which is now on tour. Warren Carlyle, a veteran of Encores!, choreographs the '50s-set backstage musical.
Griffin and Carlyle have been shaping a book by Tony Award nominee Douglas Carter Beane (who draws on the 1953 screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green) and a score by masters of the Broadway musical comedy revue form, lyricist Howard Dietz and composer Arthur Schwartz.
(There are so many levels of showbiz context here that you need a folding chart. The Band Wagon was a 1931 Broadway revue by Dietz, Schwartz and George S. Kaufman that starred Fred and Adele Astaire and featured the song "Dancing in the Dark." The film "The Band Wagon" starred a fiftysomething Fred Astaire as a former Broadway star and washed-up movie-musical actor — patterned after Astaire himself — who returns to Broadway in a show called The Band Wagon. The movie's songs were drawn from Dietz & Schwartz's '20s and '30s revue catalog, and included songs from The Band Wagon, Three's a Crowd, The Little Show, Flying Colors, Revenge With Music, Between the Devil and more. Meanwhile, the new stage version of the property charts the creation of a Broadway-bound musical called The Band Wagon.)
The movie's central anthem, "That's Entertainment," was written specifically for the picture — and remains in Dancing in the Dark.
Tony Award nominee Scott Bakula, star of TV's "Quantum Leap" and Broadway's Romance/Romance, plays the Astaire role of Tony Hunter, who has been reinvented by Beane ( Xanadu, The Little Dog Laughed, As Bees in Honey Drown) for this new stage version. He's now much more of a Bing Crosby-style performer. The principal cast of Dancing in the Dark also includes Sebastian LaCause ( The Rocky Horror Show, Once Upon a Mattress and Chicago) as Paul Byrd, a modern-dance choreographer; Mara Davi ( A Chorus Line, The Drowsy Chaperone) as modern dancer Gaby, who is crossing over into musicals and catching the eye of Tony; Tony Award winner Beth Leavel ( The Drowsy Chaperone) and Adam Heller ( Make Me a Song) as Lily and Lester Marton, performers and musical comedy writers — think Comden and Green — who are old pals of Tony's; and Patrick Page ( The Lion King, How the Grinch Stole Christmas) as Jeffrey Cordova, the artsy legit director who turns a traditional musical into a pretentious mess.
Benjamin Howes plays Hal, the stage manager, a role "built up" in the show; and Jacob Ben Widmar plays a chorus boy named Teddy, based on Ted Hook — the chorus boy turned restaurateur.
The troupe also includes Rachel Coloff, Dylis Croman, Nicolas Dromard, Cara Kjellman, Adam Perry, Eric Santagata, Kiira Schmidt, Branch Woodman and Ashley Yeater.
Music supervisor is Eric Stern, music director is Don York and orchestrator is Larry Hochman. The design team includes scenic designer John Lee Beatty, costume designer David Woolard, lighting designer Ken Billington and sound designer Brian Ronan. Stage manager is Dan Rosokoff.
Dancing in the Dark plays its world-premiere run at The Old Globe through April 13.
Beane previously told Playbill.com that other songs from the catalog of the late songwriting team have been interpolated into the show (including "Something You Never Had Before" from the 1961 musical The Gay Life).
Expect the film's famous numbers, including "A Shine on Your Shoes," "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan," "Louisiana Hayride," "I Love Louisa," "Triplets" and more.
Betty Comden and Adolph Green's studio contract ended in the middle of the movie musical project, which is the reason why the second half of the 1953 picture seems to turn into a montage-filled revue, Beane said. The playwright told Playbill.com that his goal is to honor "Betty and Adolph" and flesh out stories, deepen characters and marry music to moments. The lengthy "detective ballet" at the end of the film (apparently partly created by Alan Jay Lerner) is not in the new stage version.
According to The Old Globe, "In Dancing in the Dark, Tony Hunter is a Hollywood star with a career on the wane. Jeffrey Cordova is a Shakespearean actor-manager with a taste for high art. Together they team up with a diverse assortment of theatrical personalities to create a new musical that's strictly 'entertainment.' With a score packed with classics like 'A Shine on Your Shoes,' that quintessential ode to show business 'That's Entertainment!,' and the title song, Dancing in the Dark is the musical comedy that will have audiences dancing in the aisles."
Bakula is a 1988 Tony Award nominee as Best Actor in a Musical for Romance/Romance, and a Drama Desk nominee for 3 Guys Naked From the Waist Down. The four-time Emmy Award nominee starred in TV's time-traveling series, "Quantum Leap" (for which he won a Golden Globe Award), "Star Trek: Enterprise" (as Capt. Jonathan Archer) and was Murphy Brown's beau on the sitcom "Murphy Brown."
At Ford's Theatre in 2006, he starred as the patriarch Charlie Anderson in Shenandoah. On Jan. 18 he performed a concert in Washington, DC, to benefit the historic Ford's Theatre. Bakula's other Broadway credits are Marilyn (he played Joe DiMaggio) and Is There Life After High School?
The Old Globe is at 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park. For more information call (619) 23-GLOBE or visit www.TheOldGlobe.org.