The Goodspeed Opera House was awarded a $75,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant to further develop a revised version of the 1969 Jerry Herman musical, Dear World, expected to be nurtured at the nonprofit's Chester, CT, Norma Terris Theatre in 2000.
Chita Rivera is expected to be attached to the project, according to a Goodspeed spokesperson. The show, like other Norma Terris productions, would not be reviewed by the press and would be developed in front of an audience. Rivera read a revised version of Dear World for the Roundabout Theatre Company in April 1998. Scott Ellis oversaw that rehearsal-reading process, but apparently Roundabout is not going ahead with the project.
For the star-studded Roundabout reading, David Thomson (Steel Pier, The World Goes 'Round) penned a revised book, drawing from the existing libretto by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee (itself based on Jean Giradoux's The Madwoman of Chaillot).
The NEA grant is for the 2000 calendar year, but Goodspeed could apply for an extension, according to a spokesperson. The Chester season in 2000 has not yet been announced. Goodspeed also operates a mainstage in East Haddam, CT, devoted to revivals.
Goodspeed's Jennifer Wislocki said Herman will be involved in the Goodspeed revisit to Dear World, but it was not immediately clear if new book writers would be involved. A director has not been named. Other talked-about aborning projects for Rivera: A return to Broadway in Chicago and a national tour or New York sitdown of her revue, Chita Rivera and All That Jazz.
The original Broadway production of Dear World, directed and choreographed by Joe Layton and produced by Alexander H. Cohen, opened Feb. 6, 1969, at the Mark Hellinger Theatre and ran only 132 performances, but Angela Lansbury won a Tony Award for playing Countess Aurelia, a Parisian eccentric who embraces love and shuns the modern world.
The show reunited Lansbury with her Mame authors. Herman's score is filled with love songs and marches, and many consider the work his most sophisticated. Songs include "And I Was Beautiful," "I Don't Want To Know," "I've Never Said I Love You," "Kiss Her Now," "One Person," the title tune, and more.
The 1998 Roundabout reading included Rivera as Countess Aurelia, Debra (Ah, Wilderness!) Monk and Madeline (The Sisters Rosensweig) Kahn as Gabrielle and Constance, the other two madwomen originated by Jane Connell and Carmen Matthews, and Audra (Ragtime) MacDonald in the Pamela Hall part of Nina. In Milo O'Shea's role of Sewerman was Alfred Molina (Art).
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Harry Haun