Fans have long treasured the score, which was preserved on a Broadway cast album. The staging's revisions are by Erik Haagensen, the American librettist and lyricist who fell in love with the material years ago (he bought the cast album when he was a student). He has written additional book and lyric material for it; the original librettist was Nunnally Johnson, who drew from the Arnold Bennett novel "Buried Alive."
The Illinois production is based on revision work Haagensen already did for the 1998 staged readings of the show for York Theatre Company Off-Broadway, as well as a 2005 concert version at York.
Light Opera Works artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller directs the new production.
Music is by composer Jule Styne, lyrics are by E.Y. Harburg. Neither were happy with the project's shape on Broadway, and the script was never made available for licensing.
Previews began Oct. 2. Roger L. Bingaman is musical director. Rudy Hogenmiller also choreographs. A new five-piece orchestration has been created for this production by Larry Moore. Performances play to Nov. 6 at the McGaw YMCA Child Care Center Auditorium, 1420 Maple in Evanston.
According to production notes, "Darling of he Day tells the story of Priam Farll, an eccentric expatriate painter who returns to England to be knighted after a long absence. The untimely death of his butler leads to confusion concerning who actually died. Farll seizes this opportunity to live in anonymity as his deceased butler. While in disguise, he not only falls in love with a widow from Putney, but also must avoid a suspicious art dealer who is determined to unmask our hero."
The story and score gave the frisky and liberal lyricist Harburg (Bloomer Girl, "The Wizard of Oz," Jamaica, Finian's Rainbow) the chance to have some fun with the English class system, the art world and middle-aged romance.
"The book has been revised a good deal," Haagensen told Playbill.com, adding that he has rewritten scenes that exist and, in some cases, created entirely new scenes. He pulled from several different versions of the script, and consulted the novel, a play (The Great Adventure) inspired by novel and a film script ("Holy Matrimony") of the novel.
Haagensen said he augmented and added to Harburg's lyrics but did not "rewrite" Harburg.
Al rewrites were done with the permission of the estates of the authors.
"We very much believe the show now works," Haagensen said. "And we want to get it out there in the repertoire…"
Two songs have been cut from the Broadway score ("Money, Money, Money" and "I've Got a Rainbow Working for Me") and two songs ("Putney on the Thames" and "That Stranger in Your Eyes," both cut before Broadway) have been added back in.
Also, "That Something Extra Special" has been replaced by Harburg's earlier lyric for the tune, and it's now called "A Little Extra Shilling." The song now serves the plot better, Haagensen said.
Patricia Routledge won a Tony Award (tying with Leslie Uggams in 1968) for playing Alice Challice opposite Vincent Prince as Priam. An unlikely showstopper was an ode to friendship called "Not On Your Nellie," in which Alice pledges her fidelity to her pals rather than high society.
The cast includes Roger Mueller as Priam Farll; Mary Ernster as Alice Challice; Jon Steinhagen as the art dealer Clive Oxford; and Maggie Clennon Reberg as his client, Lady Margaret Vale.
Designers are Jessica Kuehnau (sets), Elizabeth Shaffer (costumes), Andrew H. Meyers (lights) and Sara Morgan (props). Production manager is Paige Keedy. Jeffry A. Stilson serves as stage manager.
For tickets and information, call the Light Opera Works box office at (847) 869-6300 or order online at www.LightOperaWorks.com.