This 1997-98 season's longest running Off-Broadway musical is a well-kept Secret. On May 13, Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know reached 231 performances and passed Two Pianos, Four Hands as the season's long-distance champ. To celebrate the event, just after that night's performance the show linked up live, via satellite, to travel expert Wendy Perrin, who wrote the Fodor's book that inspired the revue. Perrin offered travel tips -- live from Hong Kong, China.
The success of that idea spawned a continuing series for the show. Perrin reported live from the Grand Canyon May 27, and did a satellite feed from the Bahamas in June. Tonight (July 20) she reports from Ireland. As with each hook-up, a promotional prize for a lucky audience member gets raffled off at evening's end. The prize on July 20 is a weekend at Ireland's 700-year-old Ashford Castle.
Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know opened Oct. 30, 1997 at New York's Triad Theatre on West 72nd St. A few months back, the show even added 15 minutes of new material. According to spokesperson Beck Lee (reached Feb. 19), one recently-added number looks at people's obsession with buffet dining (by Nick Santamaria, who is also the show's male understudy.) There's a new border guard sketch, plus a third solo for Jay Leonhardt, "Aging Planes."
Four performers star in Secrets, including Drama Desk nominee Kathy Fitzgerald (Swinging On A Star), James Darrah (a former Ringling Brothers clown, and Ambrose the recent revival of Hello, Dolly!), Charles Alterman, Liz McConahay and Ray DeMattis.
Music director and pianist Stan Freeman, and bassist Jay Leonhart, also take part in the performance, especially since they've contributed material to the revue. Other writers include Douglas Bernstein, Francesca Blumenthal, Michele Brourman, Michael Brown, Lesley Davison, Karen Gottlieb, Murray Grand, Glen Kelly and Denis Markell. Musical director Stan Freeman won an L.A. Drama-Logue Award for his solo as Oscar Levant, At Wit's End. Designing Secrets are Rui Rita (set & lighting) and David Brooks (costumes).
Directed by Forbidden Broadway performing veteran Patrick Quinn, Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know shows why people have wanderlust, even though visitors "suffer through every mishap, fiasco and cultural embarrassment imaginable." Two dozen songs and comic sketches comprise the evening, which not only poke fun at tourism but offer arcane travel tips and trivia.
Produced by Scott Perrin, Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know sprang from sister Wendy's travel book of the same title, now in its third mass-market printing. Perrin then went to the above mentioned cabaret songwriters and asked them to contribute original songs. The show received a workshop at Westport CT's White Barn Theatre.
Side note: It was Perrin who gave Walter (Chicago, Footloose) Bobbie his first professional musical directing gig: A Grand Night For Singing, which moved from Rainbow & Stars to Broadway.
For tickets ($20-47.50) and information on Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know at the Triad call (212) 799-4599.
-- By David Lefkowitz