Paper Doll, the new play about outrageous author Jacqueline Susann by Barbara Zitwer and Mark Hampton that was once announced for an April 2002 Broadway bow, is now looking at a spring 2003 premiere, producer Randall Wreghitt told Playbill On-Line.
Marlo Thomas, who starred in the work in Pittsburgh, was once set to play Susann in New York. As spring passed into summer, Fran Drescher was reported for the Susann role and a Broadway arrival in October looked likely. Neither actress is currently attached to the project, confirmed Wreghitt.
F. Murray Abraham starred opposite Thomas as Irving Mansfield, Susann's husband-manager, in the play's world premiere at Pittsburgh Public Theater in late 2001. In February and March 2002, the slightly revised play had a run in North Carolina. The play was to be fast-tracked to Broadway's Cort Theatre for spring 2002, but producer Wreghitt and his partners decided to bide their time.
The run in North Carolina — the Reynolds Theatre at Duke University in Durham — was a test of some changes in the script and production. The play was an audience hit in Pittsburgh.
Leonard Foglia (Master Class) directed. In North Carolina, the cast included Thomas and Abraham, with Joanne Genelle in multiple roles and Adrian Rieder as Susann protégé Jésus. (Armando Rodriguez originated the role in Pittsburgh.) A black poodle is part of the play, too.
At the time, Wreghitt was partnering with MARS Theatricals (Amy Danis and Mark Johannes), in association with Montauk Highway and others on the commercial run. A clutch of New York producers made the trip to Pittsburgh to see the production, and more traveled south to North Carolina.
In Pittsburgh, wildly divided reviews met the punchy play by Zitwer and Hampton. Audiences reportedly ate up the naughty jokes and references made by Susann and Mansfield, who both promoted Susann's trashy fiction ("Valley of the Dolls") to the best seller lists.
The play included direct-address and monologues, as well as more conventional narrative scenes; the work has been described as somewhat nonlinear.
The flamboyant, troubled Susann died of cancer in 1974. Susann prefigured the celebrity trash lit authors of today. The recent film, "Isn't She Great" also focused on Susann, with Bette Midler as the sassy, outlandish, rags to-riches author. Part of the new play is set in Pittsburgh in 1971. F. Murray Abraham won the Academy Award for "Amadeus."
Co-author Hampton memorably co-wrote Full Gallop, the Diana Vreeland solo play, with actress-writer Mary Louise Wilson. With longtime friend Stuart Ross, creator of Forever Plaid, he recently co-authored a musical based on the life of the '30s singing trio, the Boswell Sisters, which recently had its world premiere at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre. Co-author Zitwer is the founder and owner of an international literary agency based in New York City, Barbara J. Zitwer Agency. She is also a film and television producer and her feature films include the cult classic, "Vampire's Kiss," starring Nicholas Cage. Zitwer is the author of the "Magic of the Ocean" series published by Warner Books. Paper Doll is her first play.
Designers attached were Michael McGarty (set), Martin Pakledinaz (costume), Brian Nason (lighting) and Zach Moore (sound).
—By Robert Simonson
and Kenneth Jones