City Center's Encore! Great American Musicals in Concert series has changed the order of its season, now opening (Feb. 13-16) with Sweet Adeline, directed by Eric Schaeffer, artistic director of Signature Theater in Arlington, VA. Originally slated to go first, Martin Short starring in Promises, Promises will, instead, run March. 20-23, with Lorenz Hart and George Abbott's The Boys From Syracuse capping the season May 1-4.
Proving his musical leanings, Schaeffer has directed several Sondheim shows at the Signature, including Passion. After Adeline, he'll return to Signature for an April Sunday In The Park With George.
Walter Bobbie, the director who turned the New York City Center's "Encores!" series of in-concert musicals into a N.Y. institution in just two years, announced in July 1996 he would not stage the 1997 season.
Kathleen Marshall, 33, who choreographed the Tony-nominated Swinging on a Star, took over. Bobbie, who sang the role of Nicely-Nicely Johnson in the 1992 Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls, quickly established himself as a director with the Tony-nominated revue A Grand Night for Singing. At "Encores!" he was responsible for staging Du Barry Was a Lady, Pal Joey, Call Me Madam and the hit Chicago, among others. Bobbie cited the time needed to restage the commercial Broadway transfer of Chicago as his reason for withdrawing from the 1997 series, and told the Times he's entertaining the idea of staging another musical (not named) in spring 1997.
As for Encores!, Martin Short, who got a Tony nomination for his first Broadway effort, The Goodbye Girl, will star in a revival of Promises, Promises, the 1968 Burt Bacharach/Hal David/Neil Simon musical. Short is best known for his characters, including the excessively enthusiastic Ed Grimley, developed on television's "SCTV" and "Saturday Night Live," and for his appearances in Steve Martin's Father of the Bride films. Promises, Promises will be directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall, whose Broadway choreographing credits include Victor/Victoria, Nathan Lane's Forum revival, Damn Yankees and the recent TV special Mrs. Santa Claus. The rest of the cast has not yet been announced.
Like The Goodbye Girl, Promises, Promises is the Broadway musicalization of an award-winning film -- this case, The Apartment. Jerry Orbach won a 1969 Tony Award -- and Jack Lemmon a 1960 Oscar nomination -- for the lead role that Short will play: C.C. Baxter, a sad sack who advances in the business world because he lends his apartment to his bosses for their extramarital affairs. -- That is, until the day that one of them breaks the heart of the girl Baxter loves.
Billy Wilder, who won three Oscars for writing/producing/directing The Apartment, has said he got the idea for the plot from watching Brief Encounter and wondering about a subsidiary character who makes his apartment available for Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson -- then returns too early.
In addition to the title song, the Promises, Promises score includes "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "Half as Big as Life," "Knowing When To Leave," "Whoever You Are," "Our Little Secret" and "She Likes Basketball."
Here are some more details on the other shows: * Sweet Adeline, a rarely-revived 1929 musical written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein 2d as a vehicle for their Show Boat star, torch singer Helen Morgan, who played a Broadway star on the rise from humble beginnings. Songs include "Why Was I Born?" and "Don't Ever Leave Me" (but not "Sweet Adeline").
* The Boys From Syracuse, the 1938 Richard Rodgers/ Lorenz Hart musical, with George Abbott's book based on Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors (also the inspiration for Oh, Brother!), about two sets of long-separated twins. The score includes "This Can't Be Love," "Falling in Love With Love" and "Sing for Your Supper."
Casts for the "Encores!" shows generally are announced just weeks before opening, but have included some of Broadway's best.
The Boys From Syracuse was among musicals suggested for the 1997 season by members of Playbill On-Line in a July 1996 Playbill Poll, but several other favorites, including Carrie and The Golden Apple will have to wait until another season.
This year, to accommodate the overwhelming demand for tickets, a fifth "twilight" performance has been added to the "Encores!" regular schedule (Thursday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM, Saturday matinee at 2 PM). The additional "twilight" performances will take place Sunday at 6:30 PM.
Subscriptions are now on sale. Single tickets go on sale by phone Jan. 12; at the box office Jan. 13. Call (212) 581-1212.