EXCLUSIVE: Tony Walton Staging of Evening Primrose Gets Its "Ella"

News   EXCLUSIVE: Tony Walton Staging of Evening Primrose Gets Its "Ella"
Jessica Grové will play Ella, the frightened young woman who resides in a department store, in an October benefit staged reading of Stephen Sondheim's musical Evening Primrose, directed by Tony Walton in Manhattan.

Jessica Grov
Jessica Grov

As previously announced, Sean Palmer (Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid) will play Charles, a poet who seeks refuge in the store at night — and meets the mysterious Ella.

Of the actress, Walton said, "She was — joyously — Sean Palmer's Polly Browne throughout the Goodspeed Opera House run and the international tour of Julie Andrews' production of The Boy Friend. And they have worked together — quite gloriously — in Coward's 'Conversation Piece,' an incredibly demanding score."

Grové's Broadway credits include two Stephen Sondheim shows, Sunday in the Park With George and the current A Little Night Music. She played Dorothy in the Madison Square Garden production of The Wizard of Oz." She also played Miss Dorothy in Broadway's Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Walton will direct a staged reading of James Goldman and Sondheim's Evening Primrose, the 1966 musical-for-television, as part of the St. George's Society of New York's Anglo-American Cultural Awards Oct. 25 in Manhattan.

The production is being billed as the first live staging of Evening Primrose in North America. Expect a script-in-hand, semi-staged production, producer Margot Astrachan told Playbill.com. The hourlong musical at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College will also feature Candice Bergen ("Murphy Brown") as Mrs. Monday; plus John McMartin (Follies); Bill Duell (1776); John Cunningham (Company); and dance legends Carmen de Lavallade (House of Flowers), Frederic Franklin and Sondra Lee (Peter Pan, Hello, Dolly!).


The gala benefit celebration of the Anglo-American Cultural Awards of the St. George's Society will recognize the contributions — "to U.S.-U.K. society" — of Academy, Emmy and Tony Award winner Walton, and Harper's Bazaar editor-in-chief Glenda Bailey.

Angela Lansbury (Sondheim's Sweeney Todd and the recent A Little Night Music) will present Walton's award at the dinner that follows the performance.

Evening Primrose, based on a story by John Collier, concerns a poet who takes refuge in a department store at night, falling in love with Ella, a frightened girl. The score offers one of Sondheim's most famous songs, "I Remember," plus "Take Me to the World," as well as "If You Can Find Me, I'm Here" and "When."

The production team includes orchestrator Sean Patrick Flahaven, music director Mary-Mitchell Campbell (Sondheim's recent Company on Broadway), sound designer Bernard Fox, lighting designer Richard Pilbrow (The Life, Show Boat).

Following the presentation of Evening Primrose, there will be a gala dinner in the top of Hearst Tower featuring the talents of Alan Cumming and Jim Dale. A grant will be made to Young Playwrights Inc., the charity founded by composer-lyricist Sondheim.

Walton and Bailey will also present grants from the St. George's Society to Tony Award winner Christine Jones (Spring Awakening and American Idiot) and writer Alfie Barrett — chosen by Walton and Bailey as up-and-coming talents in their fields.

The evening will be attended by Alec Baldwin, Tommy Tune, Alan Cumming, Jim Dale and other theatre and fashion-world people.

Tickets for Evening Primrose range from $275 (theatre only) to $750 (includes the show, gala dinner/cabaret) and can be purchased at shop.stgeorgessociety.org or by calling (212) 682-6110.


Founded in 1770 in New York, the St. George's Society of New York's non-sectarian mission is to help people of British and Commonwealth origin living in the New York City area. Along with its beneficiaries program, and scholarship program, the Society will extend its continuing cultural program to present grants to young people in the Arts. Visit www.stgeorgessociety.org.


The day after the staged reading, as previously reported, E1 Entertainment will release a DVD of the 1966 television special "Evening Primrose."The 50-minute, black-and-white DVD is scheduled for an Oct. 26 release.

"Evening Primrose" originally aired as part of the ABC Stage 67 television series. Paul Bogart directed a cast that included Anthony Perkins, Dorothy Stickney, Larry Gates and Charmian Carr.

"Unable to cope with the pressures of the outside world," press notes state, "a poet hides inside a locked department store. But as night falls, he discovers a group of hermits who’ve been living there for years. Among them is Ella, a frightened girl who desperately wants to leave."

Track listing for the previously released "Evening Primrose" soundtrack follows:

"If You Can Find Me, I'm Here"
"Meeting the Others"
"You're One of Us"/"Charles and Ella"
"Charles' Schedule"/"If You Can Find Me, I'm Here" (reprise)
"Looking for Ella"
"I Remember"
"Charles Touched Me"
"Take Me to the World"
"The First Dance"
"The Security Guard"/"The Second Dance"
"Another Dance"
"The Dark Men Come"/"Take Me to the World" (Reprise)

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