Stan Turtletaub met his wife, Anita, at a Catskills Mountains singles' resort, but the Chicago-area writer-producer-director of industrial theatre says his new musical, Love in the Catskills, isn't autobiographical.
Co-written with his wife and Tracy Friend, the musical comedy, opening Dec. 29 at the Equity-affiliated Midwest Jewish Theater in Skokie, IL., is about an aged bellhop (an angel in disguise) who makes love matches at a Jewish Catskills resort populated with secular, career-driven Jews, Kosher-keeping Jews and golf-loving Japanese businessmen.
The fictional Hotel Kutchburg, inspired by numerous resorts in New York state's Catskills, is the musical's setting. Turtletaub told Playbill On Line Dec. 28 he knows the territory well: The former New Yorker was once a social director of a Catskills summer resort. Places such as Grossinger's and Kutsher's lured New York City residents to the mountains for recreation and, at the very best places, top-name entertainment.
The East Coast Catskills phenomenon had its popularity peak 1920-1960 and is documented in such films as "Dirty Dancing" and "Sweet Lorraine," Moss Hart's autobiography "Act One," and the stage musical, Wish You Were Here.
"We're trying to find a New York producer because it's a real New York kind of story," Turtletaub said. "It's very whimsical and lighthearted." The music is in a traditional show-tune vein, with waltzes, ballads and "a great drinking song," he said. Chicago-area veteran actor Darwin Apel plays the 74-year-old bellhop in a cast of 13 under the direction of Catherine Davis. Musical director is Laurie Norton.
Performances continue to Feb 21, 1999, at the Zollie and Elaine Frank Theater, Meyer Kaplan Jewish Community Center, 5050 W. Church St., the former home of the National Jewish Theater.
For tickets ($18-$25) call (847) 675-5070.
-- By Kenneth Jones