San Francisco's 42nd Street Moon, the company known for reviving musicals in concert, is claiming the U.S. premiere of the Johnny Mercer Andre Previn musical, The Good Companions, opening Aug. 11 and continuing to Aug. 27.
The 1974 musical was seen in London but ran only five months, a short stint due in part to terrorism in the city that year. Judi Dench and John Mills starred. The tuner was based on a 1929 novel by J.B. Priestley. There was also a play version of the story, with John Gielgud, and a subsequent film, with Gielgud and Jessie Matthews. A second film version in 1957 starred Celia Johnson and Eric Portman.
According to 42nd Street Moon production notes, composer Previn approached lyricist Mercer about the idea of a musical based on "Little Women," but Mercer suggested the Priestley property. Ronald Harwood penned the libretto.
The new concert revival by 42nd Street Moon, which began in previews Aug. 9, features Don Cima, Alison Aylers, Bill Fahrner, Marsha (Ward) Lanzo, James Thomas, Sean Sharp, Elisa Camahort and Catherine Sheldon.
Rabid musical theatre fans know The Good Companions cast album and such songs as "Stagestruck," "Ta, Love," "The Pleasure of Your Company" and "Darkest Before the Dawn." The show concerns a troupe of British music hall performers as they fall in love and try to make ends meet during a tour of the British Isles in the 1930s.
Mercer is known for pop songs such as "The Days of Wine and Roses" and "Moon River," but also contributed to the Broadway musicals, Lil Abner, Top Banana, St. Louis Woman and Free and Easy. Previn never had a smash on Broadway but is known for his jazz musicianship, film scores and conducting musical films (he earned four Academy Awards).
Greg MacKellan directs the concert production. Jayne Zaban choreographs.
Tickets are $13-$25. Performances are the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson at Battery, in San Francisco. For information, call (415) 788-1125 or visit the 42nd Street Moon web site at www.42ndStMoon.com.
-- By Kenneth Jones