Lookin' for Love? Try FL's Coconut Grove, Where Urban Cowboy Will Debut in Fall

News   Lookin' for Love? Try FL's Coconut Grove, Where Urban Cowboy Will Debut in Fall
Coconut Grove Playhouse has announced it will stage the world premiere of the musical, Urban Cowboy, inspired by the 1980 film of the same name, Nov. 5-Dec. 1.

Coconut Grove Playhouse has announced it will stage the world premiere of the musical, Urban Cowboy, inspired by the 1980 film of the same name, Nov. 5-Dec. 1.

Aaron Latham (the original screenwriter) and Phillip Oesterman penned the new show about a honky-tonk bar, a mechanical bull, and male ego. Oesterman will direct.

The staging will open the not-for-profit Coconut Grove season in Miami, and is billed as prior-to-Broadway. The picture starred Debra Winger and John Travolta. Chase Mishkin and Leonard Soloway are the attached commercial producers.

"The story takes place in Gilley's bar, the evening watering hole of the newly prosperous rig workers during the oil boom of the '70s," according to the Coconut Grove announcement. "It's a place rife with lots of laughs, personal drama and sexual tension — and as the song depicts — it's the place where everyone goes 'Lookin' For Love.'"

Songs in the show include "Could I Have This Dance," "Orange Blossom Express" and "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." The original soundtrack went triple platinum. No casting has been announced. Melinda Roy and Robert Royston are choreographing. Theatrical Index reports that the show will have a five-piece band on stage.


The new musical received a workshop Dec. 6-7, 2001, at downtown's Manhattan's Westbeth Theatre Center and had long been eyeing a March 2002 Broadway berth. Producers Soloway and Mishkin apparently hoped to start rehearsals on or around Feb. 15. The New York Post had reported that the Ambassador Theatre was to house the $4.5 million tuner, but the Pulitzer winner Topdog/Underdog settled there instead.

In late 2001, Oesterman told Playbill On-Line: "What is positive for us is that I think our show has a global audience. The movie has been popular everywhere. When we checked into our hotel room in Australia years ago to do Easter Parade, at 8 o'clock, prime time, we turned on the television, and there was 'Urban Cowboy,' which made us feel really good. It's been a cult movie all through the South and the Southwest. I also think it's gonna be good theatre and surprise New York theatregoers who are expecting some typical, country-music, 'The Train Ran Over My Dog' thing. It's really a good show, so we won't be totally dependent on tourists at all. And any good show that opens on Broadway right now could run a year if a tourist never came to it. I don't know if tourists are coming to Urinetown or not, but it's sure doing great business."

The December Urban Cowboy workshop featured busy actor Raul Esparza in the John Travolta role of Bud. Esparza spent the summer and fall adding poundage to his resume, jumping from the goofy guignol of Rocky Horror to the urban angst of tick, tick...Boom!, and on Oct. 26 he took over the Emcee role in Cabaret. He's headed to the Kennedy Center in summer 2002 to perform in the Sondheim Celebration.

As previously reported, the Cowboy workshop also featured Sandy Duncan (Peter Pan), playing Aunt Corene opposite Reathel Bean's Uncle Bob. Newcomer Caroline McMahon was Sissy (the Debra Winger part), alongside Tom Zemon as the villainous Wes (the Scott Glenn part) and Smokey Joe's Cafe alum B.J. Crosby as Jesse. The latter, owner of the honky tonk club Gilly's is a new character created expressly for the musical, according to director and co-author Philip Oesterman.

Choreographing Urban Cowboy were Melinda Roy (former principal dancer with NYC Ballet) and Robert Royston.

Douglas W. Schmidt (42nd Street) is doing the set for Urban Cowboy, with David F. Segal on lighting. Louis St. Louis (Smokey Joe's Cafe), who wrote five songs for filmdom's "Grease 2," served as musical director for the workshop.


Back in December 1998, before he became Broadway's Tony Manero, James Carpinello participated in a reading of a new musical based on "Urban Cowboy." Oesterman and librettist Aaron Latham (who wrote the screenplay) sought songs on a trip to Tennessee, visiting the Nashville Songwriters Association in the hope of finding original songs to plug into the show.

"We met with, literally, the top country writers in Nashville," Oesterman told Playbill On-Line. "We came away with more demos and CDs than we could bring; we had to mail them home. And some of the people we met are definitely writing songs for the show." Oesterman previously said the show would include the movie's "Could I Have This Dance for the Rest of My Life?" and Johnny Lee's "Looking for Love."

Urban Cowboy had a reading at Lincoln Center in early 2000, with Footloose's Jeremy Kushnier playing Bud and Natasha Diaz playing Sissy. That summer, another workshop was held in Gloucester, MA, with David Elder (42nd Street's Billy Lawler) as Bud and Angela Pupelo as Sissy.

James Bridges' 1980 film starred John Travolta as a construction worker whose machismo doesn't quite jibe with real life. He also winds up in a love triangle (with the other points played by Debra Winger and Scott Glenn). The movie's best-known aspect is the mechanical bull customers ride at the pub Gilley's, a machine that sparked something of a craze for the nuts n' bolts bronco in bars across America.


Coconut Grove will also stage the world premiere of the new Mark Saltzman musical, Romeo and Bernadette, co produced with Paper Mill Playhouse. Also expect Charles Randolph Wright's Blue; the Al Dubin musical bio, Boulevard of Broken Dreams; Eduardo Machado's Once Removed; a title to be announced; and (in the intimate Encore Room) Yasmina Reza's The Unexpected Man and Kathrine Kressmann Tayor's Address Unknown.

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