Add to the growing list of stage musicals based on popular movies The Summer of `42, a new work about to receive a staged reading at New York City's York Theater Company, May 4. This developing musical joins a list that already includes Big, Saturday Night Fever, Footloose and The Lion King, with Thoroughly Modern Millie also on the way.
Starring in the reading will be Alice Ripley (Side Show, Sunset Boulevard), her Sunset co-star Alan Campbell, and Footloose lead Jeremy Kushnier. Also in the cast are Lauren Kennedy (Side Show), Kirk McDonald (Parade), Chris Diamantopoulos (Les Miz), Whitney Allen (Forbidden Broadway), Danielle Ferland (Into the Woods) and John Hillner (Footloose).
Though critics were lukewarm, Robert Mulligan's 1971 film, "Summer of `42," became a big box office draw, with new star Jennifer O'Neill and composer Michel LeGrand receiving special attention. The story told of a 15-year-old boy, Hermie, drawn into a relationship with Dorothy, a beautiful war-bride. In the musical reading, Ripley plays the object of Diamantopoulos's affections.
Hunter Foster, understudy for Kushnier in Footloose and a performer in Grease! and King David, penned the libretto for Summer of `42, with David Kirshenbaum (Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus) writing the music and lyrics.
The York Theater devotes itself to developing new musicals and reviving both classic and under-appreciated tuners. Currently on the mainstage is Cy Coleman's Exactly Like You. Previous York offerings have included The Show Goes On (a Schmidt-Jones retrospective), Carnival and No Way To Treat a Lady. Nick Corley, director of the Melting Pot Theater's current revue, Fables in Slang, will stage the York reading of Summer of `42, part of the company's spring Developmental Reading Series. This is the first public performance of the piece. Songs in the show include "Someone To Dance With Me," "Will That Ever Happen To Me?" and a solo for Dorothy, "Losing Track of Time."
Asked about how Summer came into fruition, composer/lyricist Kirshenbaum told Playbill On-Line (May 3), "It was Hunter Foster's idea, and we've been working on it just over a year in earnest. He and I went to the University of Michigan together. In fact, he had a lead role in the first musical I ever wrote. Anyway, he had the idea, and I said, `if you can get the rights to it, go ahead,' figuring these things are impossibly complicated. Hunter's lawyer approached [screenwriter] Herman Raucher's lawyers, and in a month we had the rights. We started working on it February of last year and held a private reading for ourselves in March."
Asked what he felt was special about the material, Kirshenbaum said, "It's a memory play. People remember the movie's nostalgic element, the relationship between Dorothy and Hermie, but I think the piece is more about loss. It's very touching. Through this first love of his life, Hermie goes through every kind of emotion you can experience in a relationship."
Backers are being sought for Summer of `42, which plans another reading at a different venue in mid-May.