Harnick's Horatio Alger Musical Spoof Resurfaces in NJ Reading Jan. 6

News   Harnick's Horatio Alger Musical Spoof Resurfaces in NJ Reading Jan. 6
An obscure musical by Sheldon Harnick — best known for his lyrics to Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me and Fiorello! — will be presented in a sold-out Jan. 6 reading by Playwrights Theatre in New Jersey.

Sheldon Harnick and composer David Baker's Fair Haired Boy or The A-B-C's of Success, with book by Ira Wallach, is the next "Roundtable Reading" by Playwrights Theatre in Madison, NJ. For the Equity public "rehearsed reading," patrons are invited to sit with professional actors and a director as they present a rehearsed reading.

In this case, it's an exploration of an Off-Broadway show from over 45 years ago, but with new lyrics, songs and an updated book. Lyrics and additional dialogue are by Pulitzer Prize winner Harnick, who will be in attendance at the reading.

James Glossman will direct the reading, with a cast that includes Jake Speck, Melissa Bohon, Jim Corti, Paul Whelihan, Gail Dennison, Paul Murphy, Richard Binder, Stacy Lee Tilton, Anthony Blaha, Michael Hopewell, Kimberly Dunbar, Marissa Rosen and Kristin Hoesl. Musical direction is by Stephen Randoy.

According to Playwrights Theatre, The Fair Haired Boy was first written over 45 years ago as an Off-Broadway musical called Smiling the Boy Fell Dead and opened at The Cherry Lane Theatre in New York. After a newspaper strike, "and other uncontrollable mishaps, this lost gem closed early and became a forgotten work." Harnick "has recently rewritten some of the old songs, created some new tunes, and revised parts of the book," and a new title was attached.

In the show, "an earnest and dim-witted small-town college boy named Waldo decides to pull his own weight after his inherited wealth has disappeared. Set in the not-so-innocent 1890s, The Fair Haired Boy is an amusing spoof on a Horatio Alger, Jr. story of the American dream. Waldo tries to be 'ambitious, conscientious, devoted, energetic, frugal, honest, industrious and reliable' with mixed results. A touch of good old-fashioned melodrama with a hint of Harold Lloyd or Buster Keaton (minus the stunts), this tour de force is classic American musical theatre and features lyrics by one of this country's foremost veterans." Many of Playwrights Theatre's mainstage productions, including this season's The Good German, started at these tables, and evolved as a result of the process, which includes post-show discussions.

For more information about Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey, visit www.ptnj.org or call (937) 514-1787.


In 2003, Glossman directed a production of Sheldon Harnick's Dragons, a fairy tale parable about democracy, at Luna Stage in Montclair, NJ. Harnick, the Tony Award-winner considered a master of craft for his lyrics to Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me, The Apple Tree, Fiorello! and The Rothschilds, among other shows, penned book, music and lyrics for Dragons. Fans know that before Harnick partnered with composer Jerry Bock, he wrote both music and lyrics ("The Boston Beguine" is a notable revue song of his).


Playwrights Theatre is a 501(c) 3 non-profit, professional (Actors' Equity) theatre and a community of professional playwrights, theatre artists, and arts educators that provides opportunities for writers to develop their works in a nurturing environment and connect with new audiences. Its New Play Development Program is a multi-step process through which playwrights, theatre artists, and audiences collaborate to bring selected texts from rough draft to finished production. It places an equal emphasis on new play development and educational activities, and encourage our community and audiences to participate fully in both.

The 2006-07 main stage season opened in October with David Wiltse's The Good German (Oct. 5-22, 2006), and is followed by Robert Clyman's Where the Sun Never Sets (Feb. 1-18), and the season concludes with Sherry Kramer's When Something Wonderful Ends (April 19-May 6).

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