Bewitched, Weisslers Explore Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey With Director Robert Altman

News   Bewitched, Weisslers Explore Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey With Director Robert Altman
Producers Barry and Fran Weissler have an option on the groundbreaking Rodgers and Hart musical, Pal Joey, and are exploring the property as a stage show to be directed by famed film director Robert Altman.
Robert Altman
Robert Altman

Ted Chapin, president of The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, said a new adaptation of the 1940 musical is being developed by the producers of the smash revival of Chicago. Chapin has had meetings with Altman ("Nashville," "MASH," "The Player") and the Weisslers and permission was granted for the Weisslers to revisit the show that gave the world "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered."

No timeline or creative team have been announced, and Chapin stressed that the project is still in its preliminary stages. The Weisslers had previously gone public with the plan, in The New York Times.

Pal Joey is based on the stories of John O'Hara (the libretto is by O'Hara), focusing on a charming heel who dreams of owning a Chicago nightclub and finds himself caught between a nice girl and a middle-aged benefactress.

The show was notable for featuring an anti-hero (and anti-heroine) whose behavior clashed with the conventions of musical comedies: He's selfish and doesn't necessarily get the girl. Fans know that a song called "I'm Talking to My Pal" — in which he admits he can only rely on himself — was cut from the show in 1940. George Abbott was the show's original director.

In recent years, librettists, directors and producers have tried to revise the material for a production that might stick. The show has been revived regionally for successful local productions. Christine Andreas won a Barrymore Award Oct. 27, for the 2002-03 revival that played Philadelphia's Prince Music Theatre. She played seen-it-all Vera, whose new toy is sexy young Joey. Pal Joey's longest run was a 542-performance revival in 1952, starring Harold Lang as Joey, a part that was created on Broadway in 1940 by a young Gene Kelly, who soon became a Hollywood star. Vivienne Segal played the middle-aged sugar-mama, Vera, in 1940 and 1952. Bob Fosse starred in the City Center revival in 1961.

The Rodgers and Hart score includes "I Could Write a Book," "What Is a Man?," "Zip," "Pal Joey," "Happy Hunting Horn," "Chicago," "That Terrific Rainbow," "The Flower Garden of My Heart," "Den of Iniquity," "Plant You Now, Dig You Later" and "Take Him."

Robert Altman directed the Broadway play, Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, in 1982. It starred Karen Black, Sandy Dennis, Kathy Bates and Cher.

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