Following its successful run of the Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt revue, The Show Goes On, Off-Broadway's York Theatre hosts a revue of songs by Clark (You're A Good Man Charlie Brown) Gesner. The Jello is Always Red, opening June 12 (recently pushed up a day from June 11), was developed at the cabaret space of Vermont's Weston Playhouse, where Gesner has been an actor for eight years.
Songs in the review will be plucked from such shows by Gesner as The Utter Glory of Morissey Hall, Animal Fair and various revues by Leonard Sillman and Julius Monk. Starring in Jello are Gesner himself, alongside Celia Gentry and Neal (no, not Neil) Young. Winston Clark serves as musical director (piano) and arranger.
A CD of the revue's material was recorded by Harbinger records in the fall, featuring the same cast. Said director Jim Morgan, "Gesner's view of the world is droll, very humorous and off-kilter. He looks at things in a different way. For example, the song, "Where Do The Chickens All Come From?" tells of a man overwhelmed by modern life. The Gilbert & Sullivan-style "The Peanut Butter Affair" is about a NY executive who realizes he went through the whole day with a clump peanut butter on his chin. Then he goes in to work the next day, and everyone has it, because they think that's the way to rise in the business world."
Asked about the project's genesis, Gesner told Playbill On-Line (June 11), "We did the show as part of the York reading series a year ago. I also tried it out solo at the Lambs... The songs come from many times and many places, though there is a style and tone connecting them. Most are funny, a couple are poignant. Many are like musicalized scenes or narratives."
The Jello Is Always Red started previews June 3 and is scheduled to run through June 28 but will likely be extended. Plans are also underway by Fox Theatricals and another producer for a Broadway revival of Charlie Brown, due spring 1999. Surprisingly, Gesner says, "I really have no connection to that production. People have been contemplating a revival for thirty years, but I've been avoiding it because I'm afraid it'll be done too `big.' The show doesn't lend itself to bigness. I've been reading about the Fox/Columbia plans in the papers but only about now will I have enough time to look into it. They initially went through Tams-Witmark, because the Fox/Columbia production started as a touring company. Now, suddenly, New York was added to the itinerary, so that's where my approval would come in."
As for the York's annual Musicals in Mufti series, arriving in September, the first show will be Kelly, by Eddie Lawrence & Moose Charlap. Kelly is one of Broadway's most famous...um... disappointments. "We don't use the `f' word -- flop," said Morgan. "It has a lot of potential that was muddled by the time it got to Broadway." Donna Kaz will direct Kelly in its first production since its Broadway premiere. A reading of the piece was done a few weeks ago, with Brian d'Arcy James and Maureen MacNamara pitching in. James is also hoping to do the Mufti show.
Also set for Mufti is Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Morton Gould's 1945 hit, Billion Dollar Baby. B.T. McNicholl directs. As of June 13, the third musical was still undecided. Possibilities include: Frank Loesser's Greenwillow and Jule Styne & Yip Harburg's Darling of the Day.
No plans have yet been set for the York's next season, set to start in November. In other York news, the company will honor librettist Peter Stone, June 8, with its annual Oscar Hammerstein Award for lifetime achievement in musical theatre. The event at St. Peter's Church June 8 in St. Peter's Church the York's Oscar Hammerstein Award for lifetime achievement in musical theatre will go to librettist Peter Stone (1776, Woman of the Year, Titanic). Founded by Janet Hayes Walker, the Hammerstein Award has previously honored such notables as Stephen Schwartz (1997), Jerry Herman, Stephen Sondheim, Cy Coleman and Harold Prince.
For tickets and information on the gala, call (212) 935-5820.
-- By David Lefkowitz