By Jeeves, by Jove, goes into rehearsal for its US premiere in Connecticut Sept. 24, beginning a frantic fall for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. His Whistle Down the Wind follows suit a few weeks later, and, if all goes as planned, the British composer could become the first person ever to have five musical hits running on Broadway at the same time.
"I've got a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar in London as well, you see," he told Playbill On-Line. "Hopefully, I won't be spending a lot of time there. The score obviously exists, and I've done an awful lot of work in advance so I'm really going with a team. They're all good people, and I'll probably let them get on with it to a great extent. I don't really want to interfere too much."
Wind, under the direction of Harold Prince, will have a limited nine-week world-premiere engagement at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. (Dec. 6-Feb. 9). It's to open on Broadway April 17 at the Martin Beck Theatre. "I've still got a little bit of stuff to do on that one," the composer admitted.
Alan Ayckbourn, the renowned playwright and director, is Sir Andrew's main man on the Jeeves team. He not only adapted the Jeeves stories of P.G. Wodehouse into a musical book but is also supplying the lyrics and the direction. The show will have its American premiere Oct. 17 at Goodspeed-at-Chester/The Norma Terris Theatre; being discussed is the possibility of moving the show into the larger Goodspeed Opera House during the run. No Broadway timetable has been set up yet, but scuttlebutt has the show also arriving in the spring.
The title role--the archetype "veddy British" manservant--was the last of the 10-member cast to be set. Richard Kline, who appeared on Broadway in City of Angels and had a recurring role on TV's "Three Comapany," landed the part. Bertram Wooster, Jeeves' aristocratic employer, will be played by John Scherer, who has the small role of a struggling young screenwriter and is first cover for Alan Campbell in "Sunset Boulevard." In fact, this particular part came up in August while Scherer was performing the lead for vacationing Campbell--AND rehearsing with Elaine Paige for her Broadway bow in the show.
"I'm really embarrassed to say that I had never read any of the books when I went for my first audition," Scherer sheepishly confesses. "Fortunately, I was able to pick up one ["Stiff Upper Lip"]. When I finally found time to read it, I instantly started laughing out loud. Bertie's an amazing character. I identified with those situations he gets himself into because I do the same."
Scherer also admits to running out and buying the box set of the TV series that starred Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. Whatever, the research worked.
Derek Jacobi once let New York magazine writer Randall Short in on a little secret about Bertie Wooster: "When the press ask you what role you dream to play, the answer is inevitably Hamlet or Lear, but privately, when actors talk about among themselves, the answer always seems to come up Bertie Wooster."
Other cast members include Donna Lynne Champlin (as Bertie's ex-fiancee, Honoria Glossop), Randy Redd (as his friend, Bingo Little, who is in love with Honoria), Merwin Goldsmith (as Sir Watkyn Bassett, a magistrate), Nancy Anderson (as his daughter, Madeline Bassett), Kevin Ligon as Gussie Fink-Nottle (who is in love with Madeline), Emily Loesser (as Stiffy Byng, the magistrate's ward), Ian Knauer (as Harold "Stinker" Pinker, who is in love with Stiffy) and Jonathan Stewart (as Cyrus Budge II Junior, a Yankee guest).
As one can deduce, the stage is set for amorous confusions. The show is set in a church hall where Wooster is scheduled to give a banjo recital. Jeeves, his trusted valet and a musical devotee, steals the banjo, forcing Bertie to improvise with a dizzy tale of romantic entanglements and mistaken identities.