Michael Greif will direct and Jerry Mitchell will choreograph a new musical based on the classic Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers 1936 film "Swing Time." The tuner, titled Never Gonna Dance (the original working title of the movie), will be workshopped in Manhattan Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in preparation for a planned 2002-03 Broadway berth, said Jay Harris, who is producing the show with the Weissberger Theater Group, Ted Hartley and RKO Pictures Corporation.
Harris told Playbill On-Line that he started pursuing the rights to the old RKO film, which boasts a score by Jerome Kern, seven years ago. Jeffrey Hatcher (Work Song, Three Viewings) was taken on as bookwriter a little over two years ago; Greif (Rent) was hired as director in the summer of 2000; and Mitchell (The Full Monty) was enlisted as choreographer six months ago.
Along with "Shall We Dance?," "Swing Time" is considered the best of the Astaire-Rogers dance musicals of the 1930s. George Stevens, who would go on to create "A Place in the Sun" and "Shane," directed. The story concerns John "Lucky" Garnett (Astaire), a hoofer who, in order to prove his worthiness to the father of the girl he wants to marry, goes to the city to earn his fortune. Once there, he meets Penny Carroll, a dancing instructor. They form a successful dancing act and fall in love. But their romance is threatened by the return of Lucky's old girl and the interference of Penny's admirer, the latin band leader Ricardo Romero.
Never Gonna Dance will use songs from the movie's score—which included "A Fine Romance," "The Way You Look Tonight," "Never Gonna Dance" and "Bojangles of Harlem"—as well as music from other sources. Among those providing lyrics to Kern's tunes are Dorothy Fields, Ira Gershwin, Otto Harbach, Johnny Mercer, Oscar Hammerstein II and P.G. Wodehouse. Other tunes to be used include "I'm Old-Fashioned," "The Song Is You," "I Won't Dance," and "Dearly Beloved."
Mitchell would seem to have the hardest assignment in a show drawn from an Astaire film. Asked whether the choreography would ape Astaire's famous footwork or chart a completely different direction, Harris said the steps would "judiciously suggest the dancing of the '30s, but Mitchell will do his own creations. It certainly will be derivative of Fred Astaire, but derivative of others, too. It will be creatively derivative and creatively creative. Looking at the dancing, I wouldn't be able to tell which step was Fred's and which exactly was Jerry's." The workshop, which will run Nov. 29-Dec. 1, will star Noah Racey in the Astaire role and Nancy Lemenager (Kiss Me, Kate) in the Rogers part. Also in the cast are Peter Bartlett as the owner of Penny's dance studio and David Pittu as bandleader Ricardo.