Dream, a musical tribute to lyricist Johnny Mercer, opened on Broadway April 2 at the Royale Theatre.
The show 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," Schwartz said 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.