The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm closed May 9 at the Longacre Theater after suffering unfriendly reviews and a lack of nominations in the spring awards season.
The contemporary take on Gershwin standards, directed by Mark Lamos, began previews April 2 and opened April 25. It played 27 previews and 17 regular performances.
The 90-minute, intermissionless collage of the songs of composer George Gershwin and his lyricist brother, Ira, was conceived and developed as a hip, pop take on the classic Jazz Age tunes. Lamos and Mel Marvin (co conceiver of Tintypes) have been with the show for three years, honing the piece in regional theater before unveiling it on Broadway with producers Music Makers Inc., Columbia Artists and Manny Kladitis.
The collection of Gershwin songs culled from their stage and movie musicals from the 1920s and 30s gets a hip, contemporary treatment, sung and danced by Michael Berresse (Chicago), Darius de Haas (OB's Running Man), Adriane Lenox (OB's Dinah Was), Sara Ramirez (The Capeman), Patrick Wilson (Bright Lights, Big City), Orfeh (Footloose), Chris Ghelfi (The Life), Tim Hunter (Sarafina), Karen Lifshey (Show Boat), Jill Nicklaus (Cats), Brian J. Marcum and Kenya U. Massey. Moving almost non-stop through newly-arranged and orchestrated ballads and up-tempo numbers, Fascinating Rhythm climaxes in the number "Hang on to Me," from Lady, Be Good!, arranged in a way that makes it sound right out of Rent.
Director Lamos told Playbill On-Line it was the Gershwin family's wish that a fresh, young, pop sound be applied to the 70-year-old tunes. For more on Lamos, see Playbill On-Line's BRIEF ENCOUNTER with him.
The treasure chest of hits in the revue includes the title number, "I've Got a Crush on You," "Lady, Be Good!," "High Hat," "Clap Yo' Hands," "My Cousin in Milwaukee/The Lorelei," "The Man I Love/Soon," "Love Is Here to Stay" (pas de deux), "Little Jazz Bird," "Isn't It a Pity," "I Love to Rhyme," "Blah, Blah, Blah," "I Got Rhythm," "Embraceable You," "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," "Nice Work If You Can Get It," "But Not For Me," "Just Another Rhumba," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "The Half Of It Dearie Blues," "Love Is Here to Stay," "How Long Has This Been Going On," "Home Blues," "Who Cares" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me."
Reviving -- and/or reinventing the context of -- Gershwin songs is nothing new to Broadway: My One and Only, Oh, Kay! and Crazy for You all recently did it.
The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm has been in development for several years, helmed by co-conceivers Lamos (director) and Marvin (music and vocal arranger). Versions of it previously played -- to great audience acclaim -- at Arizona Theatre Company and Hartford Stage, where Lamos was artistic director 1980-97.
The Broadway producers are Music Makers Inc., Columbia Artists and Manny Kladitis, with associate producers Magicworks/SFX Entertainment and Jerry Frankel.
In December 1998 and January 1999, the ATC regional staging of Fascinating Rhythm (with a different cast) was called slinky and sexy and contemporary. Among other things, it included (as does the Broadway staging) a lesbian couple performing "Isn't It a Pity?"
As in Arizona, the Broadway creative team includes David Marques (choreography), Larry Hochman (orchestrations), Michael Yeargan (scenic design), Peggy Eisenhauer (lighting design), Abe Jacob (sound) and Paul Tazewell (costume design). Additional arrangements are by Paul J. Ascenzo and Joseph Church.
By the time it closed Jan. 24, 1999, at the Herberger Theatre in Phoenix, the ATC Fascinating Rhythm was the top box office earner in the 32-year history of the nonprofit company. More than 37,000 theatregoers attended what ATC publicist Michael Rennie has called "a hip, sexy, modern take on the classic Gershwin (material)."