People come. People go. People move chairs."
That memorable lyric, from an old edition of Gerard Alessandrini's Forbidden Broadway, spoofed Tommy Tune's staging of Grand Hotel, a multi-character, always-in-motion musical set in 1928 Berlin. Now Philadelphia theatergoers will get to compare Tune's Tony- winning direction with a new mounting of the show, by Bruce Lumpkin, at the Walnut Street Theater, May 11-June 27, opening May 19. Lumpkin should feel especially at home in Grand Hotel's milieu, since he also staged the Weimar-era Cabaret at the Walnut. Not only that, he served as associate director to Tune on the original Grand Hotel mounting on Broadway.
Among the hob-nobs and have-nots populating the luxury inn of the title are a dying Jewish bookkeeper, a secretary with bigger plans (originally played by "Ally McBeal"'s Jane Krakowski), a baron who's also a thief, and a fading but still glamorous ballerina.
Philadelphia stage veteran Tony Freeman plays the bookkeeper Kringelein, the role that launched Michael Jeter (a Tony winner). Soap actress Jill Powell plays the dewy but designing Flaemmchen, and Natalie Mosco is the ballerina. (Powell appeared on Broadway in the Flaemmchen role when understudying Lynnette Perry.) Edmund Lyndeck, the original Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd, plays Dr. Otternschlag -- the role he created on Broadway. Also in featured roles are Connie Nelson, Gary Taggart, David Hess (as the Baron), John-Charles Kelly, Jeff Coon, Bonnie Diaz, Lee Golden and Dan Schiff.
Grand Hotel features a book by Luther Davis and a score by Robert Wright and George Forrest, with additional songs and material by Maury Yeston. After this musical of people coasting in and out of lobbies and moving in and out of revolving doors, composer Yeston would go on to pen another musical with many characters, most of them moving slowly downward: Titanic. Designing Walnut Street's Grand Hotel are John Ferrell (set), Jeffrey S. Koger (lighting), Colleen McMillan (costumes) and Scott Smith (sound). Richard Stafford serves as choreographer. For tickets and information on Grand Hotel, the season's mainstage finale, call (215) 574-3550.
-- By David Lefkowitz