Jack Heifner's Smash Play Vanities Being Developed as a Musical, With Songs by Kirshenbaum

News   Jack Heifner's Smash Play Vanities Being Developed as a Musical, With Songs by Kirshenbaum
The smash Off-Broadway play Vanities, seen in New York City March 1976 to May 1979 and staged throughout North America, is being adapted into a musical by its playwright Jack Heifner and composer-lyricist David Kirshenbaum.

Work has begun on the new show, Kirshenbaum told Playbill.com, and a first draft is expected by the summer. A private reading is expected by fall.

The writers were introduced to each other by director Gordon Greenberg (a Goodspeed Musicals veteran currently helming Paper Mill Playhouse's The Baker's Wife), who is attached to the project. Kirshenbaum might be best known for the musical Summer of '42, which played Off-Broadway in 2001 and has since had a regional life.

Several theatres have expressed interest in the progress of the Vanities musical, which, like its source material, is expected to be a three-character show about school friends who come of age in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The warm play was written in three scenes (1963, 1968 and 1974) and struck such a chord with playgoers that it not only ran 1,313 performances at the Westside Theatre in New York, but blossomed in regional theatres.

"It's one of those things that has gotten done by virtually every theatre in the country, but now we're giving it new life," Kirshenbaum said. "It's a comedy that winds up being moving. It follows the three women, Kathy, Joanne and Mary, from 1963 when they are high school cheerleaders through college years and up to 1974 and explores the different paths their lives take — and the ways they have so much in common." One of the ideas being explored by the collaborators is a post-script to the original story that might answer the question of what happens to the ladies beyond 1974.

Kirshenbaum admitted he at first felt "daunted" addressing the show as a musical "because it worked so well as a play." He said Heifner "seems open to reinventing it in musical theatre terms," but they have no plans to fix what isn't broken.

Such major names as Kathy Bates, Stockard Channing and Elizabeth Ashley have appeared in productions over the years, and composer Kirshenbaum said he fully expects that the future rehearsal room for the show will include "three great musical theatre women."

The musical version of the Texas-set show (which doesn't refer specifically to Texas) will remain in the period it was written for, which means Kirshenbaum can flirt with pop sounds that echo girl-groups, R&B, Burt Bacharach, Carol King and Carly Simon.

The conceit of the play has the actresses putting on makeup at vanities before their scenes.

Kathy Bates, Jane Galloway and Susan Merson starred in the original Off-Broadway production of Vanities, directed by Garland Wright. It was presented in the 1975-76 season at Playwrights Horizons.

Heifner's plays also include Earth to Bucky, Patio/Porch, Natural Disasters, Running On Empty, Bargains, Jumping for Joy, Boy's Play, Home Fires, Heartbreak, Comfort and Joy, The Lemon Cookie, Dwarf Tossing and Key West.

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