As Marty, the musical, comes out of its shell in Boston this month at the Huntington Theatre Company, marking the first new show by composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Lee Adams in 21 years, Adams confirmed their next show is still waiting for a spotlight.
An American Tragedy, their stage musicalization of the 1924 novel by Theodore Dreiser, is "on an important desk," Adams told Playbill On-Line, and he's hoping it gets picked up for production. The libretto is by screenwriter David Shaber, who died recently, but a draft of the show is complete. The story of a Midwesterner torn between his drab girlfriend and a seductive rich woman is best known as the 1951 film, "A Place in the Sun," which starred Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters.
"We'll see what happens with it," Adams said, admitting the serious show is something of a departure for the songwriting team that penned Bye Bye Birdie and Applause. But Adams points to their Golden Boy as proof that they could dig deeper than sheer musical comedy; and the intimate, gritty and flavorful Marty, a character study set in the Bronx of the 1950s, should further explore new ground for the pair.
"One of the best shows Strouse and I ever wrote was I and Albert in England, and that was not a light show, either," Adams said on break between Marty rehearsals. "Well, I guess 'An American Tragedy' is a departure: It's a real tragedy, that book. It was a big challenge."
Does Adams think the title will stay the same? "I doubt it, but as of now, since nobody's doing anything with it, we're keeping that title," Adams said. "We have a draft that we hope is saleable as a work in progress."
Are there other Strouse and Adams shows in the wings?
"No, not right now," Adams said. "Charles is different from me, completely. He always has several projects going. I don't have any other projects on my plate right now."
The last new show Strouse and Adams penned was the 1981 sequel to Bye Bye Birdie called Bring Back Birdie. Their shows include All American (which spawned "Once Upon a Time") and It's a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman (which offered "You've Got Possibilities") and A Broadway Musical, a quick flop. The team's best-known song, "Put on a Happy Face," was written originally for a revue at the Adirondack resort, Green Mansions. They found a place for the jaunty number in Birdie, their first Broadway show, and it made them rich.
Like Marty, An American Tragedy has been floating around in development for several years, and was reported about on Playbill On-Line as early as 1997.
Marty, with a book by Rupert Holmes, begins previews at Huntington Theatre Company, the resident professional theatre of Boston University, Oct. 18 under the direction of Mark Brokaw. John C. Reilly stars in the title role.
For information about Huntington Theatre Company, call (617) 266-0800 or visit www.bu.edu/huntington.
— By Kenneth Jones