Harburg and Offenbach's Happiest Girl Musical to Get Rare NYC Revival, Melding Two Scripts | Playbill

News Harburg and Offenbach's Happiest Girl Musical to Get Rare NYC Revival, Melding Two Scripts
The Happiest Girl in the World, the frisky 1961 anti-war musical satire with lyrics by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg and music by Jacques Offenbach, will get a New York City revival Nov. 17-Dec. 17. "Revisal" might be more appropriate; two drafts of the show are being used to create a new one.

Medicine Show Theatre, an experiment-friendly troupe, presents the musical, which draws on the ancient Aristophanes comedy Lysistrata, about women who seek to end war by going on a sex strike.

Directed by Obie Award-winning director Barbara Vann, the production at The Medicine Show Theatre will feature Mark J. Dempsey, Sarah Engelke, Nique Hagggerty, Samuel H. Perwin and Ray Bendana, with Rachel Black, Ilona Farkas, Mark Gering, Amanda Hargrove, Mary-Ellen Hickey, Cedric Jones, Andrea Pinyan, Kip Potharas, Jonathan Roufaeal, Sven Salumaa and Sky Seals.

For the Medicine Show production, director Vann is combining two different scripts supplied by the Yip Harburg Foundation "in order to create a new, definitive version of the piece." The company explored the show in a smaller 1989 production that represented the original Broadway script and score.

Fred Saidy and Henry Mayers co-wrote the libretto.

Set in ancient Greece, The Happiest Girl in the World concerns Diana, the Goddess of Chastity, who "comes up with a brilliant plan for stopping the endless war between Athens and Sparta: until the fighting stops, women should simply withhold their affections from the men." To bring her "No Peace No Love" scheme to the masses, Diana elects Lysistrata, the beautiful wife of Athens' celebrated General Kinesias. "Hilarious complications ensue when Diana's rogueish Uncle Pluto (who contends that the best things in life are immoral, fattening and fun) tries to derail Diana's plan with delightfully fiendish devices to keep the world in sin, sex and chaos."

The Happiest Girl in the World was originally produced on Broadway in 1961 at the Martin Beck Theatre in a production featuring Cyril Ritchard, Janice Rule and Bruce Yarnell. It ran for 96 performances and spawned an original cast recording currently available on the DRG label.

Lyricist Harburg's projects include "The Wizard of Oz," Jamaica, Finian's Rainbow, Flahooley, Bloomer Girl and Darling of the Day. Many consider his most famous lyric to be "Over the Rainbow."

Offenbach (1891-1880) was long dead when Harburg borrowed his melodies for this project. He was one of the originators of the operetta form and a major composer of the 19th century. The music to The Happiest Girl in the World was culled from many of Offenbach's works. His famous can-can music is heard here.

Vann is a founder of the Open Theatre as well as the Medicine Show, and won an Obie Award for her work on the musical Bound to Rise in 1985.

Scenic design is by Knox Martin, costumes are by Uta Bekia, choreography by Ernesta Corvino and musical direction by Michael Dion.

Medicine Show Theatre Ensemble was founded in 1970 by Barbara Vann and the late James Barbosa. The company is "dedicated to offering creative alternatives to conventional theatre by creating and presenting works that experiment with language, music, movement, form and ideas." The works are chosen "to delight the mind, honor creativity, confound empty convention, encourage active compassion and present the many facets of the American experience within a global community."

Opening is Nov. 26. The Medicine Show Theatre is at 549 W. 52nd St., 3rd Floor, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues.

The performance schedule is Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 4 PM. Tickets are $18 and are available from Smarttix at (212) 868-4444 or via the web at www.Smarttix.com.

For more information, please log onto the company’s website at www.MedicineShowTheatre.org.

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