Dream, a musical tribute to lyricist Johnny Mercer, opened on Broadway April 2 at the Royale Theatre. Though nominated for just one Tony Award, the show has no intention of packing up and taking the first train out of town.
In fact, according to spokesperson Susan Schulman, "These big musicals -- they'll all be gone and we'll still be here. Proportionally we're doing better than a lot of shows. Our `nut' is lower than a lot of the extravaganzas, so we're `wrapping' more, and we're selling more full priced tickets, which puts us in a fairly good situation."
Fans of the show can catch star Lesley Ann Warren and 12 other cast members on the May 26 Rosie O'Donnell Show. Warren will sing "Goody, Goody" on the ABC-TV program, which begins at 10 AM (EST).
The show was nominated for a single Tony Award -- Best Choreography for director/choreographer Wayne Cilento. At the annual Tony Awards Brunch, May 14, Cilento told Playbill On-Line the Dream project was all-consuming for awhile. "I had a vision in my mind and all these great dancers, to do a dance piece to illustrate these Johnny Mercer songs. I think people were expecting just a bunch of songs around a piano, but that wasn't what I was after."
Asked whether the show wasn't frozen a bit too early, Cilento said, "Well, when we get to the Hollywood number, there was supposed to be a huge curtain call scene after it. But by then we figured the audience would have been saturated with choreography, so instead we just had the actors take their bows. And I was so involved in the process, sometimes you can't really step away... But at least this nomination recognizes the show's soul. And it really keeps the company's morale up, because dance is the show." Schulman said Dream is just starting to reach its target audience -- the 50 and over crowd. "We have a new marketing campaign to go in place next week, and a new TV commercial. And the marketing will also be more dance-oriented, to change the perception of the show. Yes, it's been overlooked by the awards, but that hasn't made much of a difference. We're doing okay -- not great, but okay. Our gross is hovering at $225,000, and we have a decent advance -- around $500,000 -- which we're not eating into, which is good.
Schulman didn't yet know whether Dream would be a alloted a time to showcase itself on the June 1 Tony broadcast. "We hope so. I worked on State Fair last season, and that got some time, but I don't know if that will happen again this year."
Dream has top-drawer Broadway talent associated with it. Directed and choreographed by two-time Tony winner Wayne Cilento (Tommy, How To Succeed), the show stars Lesley Ann Warren, cabaret singer Margaret Whiting and singer/guitarist John Pizzarelli.
The score includes "Skylark," "Fools Rush In," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Blues in the Night," "Satin Doll," "Something's Gotta Give," "Too Marvelous for Words," "Jeepers Creepers," "That Old Black Magic," "Laura," "Hooray for Hollywood," "The Days of Wine and Roses," "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe;" and "Moon River" -- all with words by Mercer, in collaboration with many different composers including Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen, James Van Heusen, Jerome Kern, Harry Warren, and Richard Whiting -- Margaret's father.
Lesley Ann Warren appeared on ABC-TV's Rosie O'Donnell Show, March 27, to promote the production. Warren told O'Donnell she thought Mercer wrote "the most truly magnificent music in our history...pure entertainment." Warren said she even temporarily postponed her impending marriage to her fiance (of three years) to appear in Dream. O'Donnell and Warren also chatted about the latter's appearance in the Blake Edwards' film, Victor/Victoria, with Warren saying she did a lot of improvisation in her scenes and hasn't yet seen the Broadway production featuring Rachel York in the "floozie" role. The TV segment ended with O'Donnell joining Warren on a few bars of "Blues In The Night," from the Dream canon.
Cilento is original cast member of A Chorus Line, in which he introduced the song "I Can Do That," based on his own life experience. Other peformers from the Tennessee cast include Darcie Roberts, Jessica Molaskey, Jonathan Dokuchitz (Tommy), Charles McGowan and Brooks Ashmanskas. (Scott Wise, previously announced, left the show in rehearsals.) Also singing and dancing in the production are Todd Bailey, Angelo Fraboni, Amy Heggins, Jennifer Lamberts, Nancy Lemenager, Susan Misner, Kevyn Morrow and Timothy Edward Smith.
Dream has a book by Jack Wrangler (Whiting's husband) and co producer Louise Westergaard.
Though the show is not strictly a revue, Dream is not a biography of Mercer. Resembling in structure the 1994 Johnny Burke revue Swinging On A Star, Dream will "time-travel" and follow Mercer's years in five period: 1920s decadent Savannah, 1930s at the Rainbow Room nightclub, 1940s in the Big Band era, the golden Hollywood years of the 1950s and '60s, "and on."
"We treat Mercer as a contemporary songwriter," producer Mark Schwartz said, "in a very 90's way with cutting-edge style and and MTV-feel." Asked if he had a particular connection to Mercer's music, Schwartz said, "It was actually the music of my parents' era, but by osmosis it came to me. Now I have kids, 11 and 9, and they know 'Jeepers Creepers,' so it continues. Mercer's the kind of songwriter where we identify where we are with his songs. People think, `Oh, I remember that when I was confirmed, or Bar Mitzvahed, or when my aunt died.' These days, you go to a musical and the audience is lucky to come out humming one refrain that was repeated often enough for them to remember. With Mercer, people go IN humming the songs and come out humming and dancing, everyone to a different Mercer song."
"The show's doing great," Sc aid in December 1996 while preparing the show. "We broke an 11-year-old box office record in Tennessee. Once we get to New York we can add some new things...tighten and fine tune. The leads will certainly stay the same, though. We just did a group sales preview, Dec. 16 at the Virginia Theatre. We had 45 minutes of tidbits with staging and choreography on five or six of the numbers. The reaction was tremendous...people yelling and screaming and stamping their feet."
Warren was nominated for an Oscar as the ditzy Norma in the original film of Victor/Victoria, and played the title role in the Rodgers and Hammerstein TV musical, Cinderella. Whiting is a legendary cabaret singer whose father, songwriter Richard Whiting, wrote the song "Hooray for Hollywood" with Mercer. Pizzarelli, known mainly as a jazz guitarist, has released several albums of song, and was booked at the Oak Room of New York's Algonquin Hotel in January.
Tickets are on sale via Tele-charge at (212) 239-6200. Outside NY metro area: (800) 432-7250. You can also buy tickets on Playbill On-Line.