Cy Coleman's Grace Kelly Musical Has Gurney, the Bergmans and Blakemore Attached

News   Cy Coleman's Grace Kelly Musical Has Gurney, the Bergmans and Blakemore Attached
Grace, composer Cy Coleman's musical about Grace Kelly that had its world premiere in Holland in 2001, now has new American collaborators that will lift the show out of the Dutch language and reimagine it for a wider English-speaking audience.

Tony Award-winner Coleman told Playbill the show's new librettist is A.R. Gurney (The Dining Room, Love Letters) and his new lyricists will be Marilyn and Alan Bergman ("Yentl," Ballroom), who are also his partners on the developing show Like Jazz.

Coleman also added that Michael Blakemore, the Tony winning director of Coleman's City of Angels and The Life, is attached to Grace as director. No timetable has been revealed for a commercial production of the show, which concerns actress Grace Kelly being pulled three ways — between her American roots, a project with film director Alfred Hitchcock and the royal family of Monaco. The Philadelphia native would become a Hollywood star, but married Prince Rainier of Monaco and became European royalty.

Dutch lyricist-librettist Seth Gaaikema was Coleman's previous writing partner on Grace, which premiered at the Grace Theatre in Amsterdam in October 2001. The staging closed in March 2002, earlier than expected. Producer Bert Maas, who conceived the idea, built the theatre for the new show, which he had hoped would become a licensable international show.

Maas said he always dreamed of as musical about Grace Kelly. The original production featured Dutch stars Joke de Kruijf and Ernst Daniel Smid (as Kelly and Monaco's Prince Rainier, respectively) and Rob van de Meeberg as film director Hitchcock.

The stars sang the American premiere of some of the show's songs in a January 2002 Carnegie Hall concert of Coleman's music. How was the Tony Award-winning composer of City of Angels, Barnum, On the Twentieth Century and Sweet Charity approached to write a Dutch musical about international American-born icon Kelly?

"The pitch that was made to me was this," Coleman previously told Playbill On-Line. "They came to see me in London and they said they had a musical about Grace Kelly. I'm always of the opinion that it's not what you do, but the way that you do it. So I said, 'What about Grace Kelly?' They said it was Hitchcock's version of her life. That immediately sparked my imagination. And the show takes place in Hitchcock's sound stage, and everything grows out of that — Monaco and all that. It has some dark tones. It's not just the Royal Family in Monaco. It's about the nouveau riche of the Kellys as opposed to the old aristocracy."

Of the English-language rewrite, he said, "I want to get somebody of worth who can give us an English version with a real psychological story, and have some humor."

Coleman, known for such potent show tunes as "Hey, Big Spender," "I've Got Your Number," "Hey, Look Me Over," "The Colors of My Life" and "You Can Always Count on Me," doesn't like to repeat himself musically: From show to show, he plays with new flavors for fear of boring his audience — or himself. Thus, Barnum was filled with circus chases, City of Angels was Hollywood film music merged with torch song, On the Twentieth Century was comic opera, Will Rogers Follies married showbiz and vaudeville with folk and country, and so on.

Of Grace, Coleman said, "Musically, I wanted to do a meld of European style and American style — the European feeling along with American pizzazz. That fascinated me."

The 2001 melodies will be preserved for the English language version, Coleman said.

The show opened Oct. 25, 2001, and had a lot of Broadway talent involved. Maas said he knew Americans create the best musicals, so he sought U.S. artists when putting Grace together over the past year. Don Sebesky (a Tony Award winner for Kiss Me, Kate) was the orchestrator, Patricia Birch (Parade) was the choreographer and Eugene Lee (Sweeney Todd, Ragtime) was the set designer. (Rien Bekkers was costume designer, Frans Weisz was the director.)

The fictionalized plot has director Alfred Hitchcock wooing Kelly back to Hollywood, and her being torn between two kingdoms and two forms of royalty — Hitchcock and Rainier. Coleman said Kelly's father is also a major force in the musical.

Coleman and Gaaikema worked together by long distance, with occasional visits to each other's home country.

Original producer Maas, a real estate developer with a passion for the theatre, has been a lifelong fan of the late Kelly, whose fairytale story made her an American Cinderella of the 20th century, "I always admired her movies," Maas previously told Playbill On-Line. "I always admired the way she brought Monaco out of a slump. Every year we went on holiday there...she came on the scene, and all of the sudden you saw Monaco climbing out of its poorness and sadness."

Because of a lack of theatre availability in Holland, Maas constructed the Grace Theatre and adorned the interior with murals showing the palace of Monaco.

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