Prepping a Return to Ballroom, Jerry Mitchell Learns Its Secret

PlayBlog   Prepping a Return to Ballroom, Jerry Mitchell Learns Its Secret
When director-choreographer Jerry Mitchell went to the original author of the teleplay of "Queen of the Stardust Ballroom" and told him he would like to do a revival of what Michael Bennett shortened to just Ballroom, the 1978 Broadway musical, Mitchell admitted he didn't "have a take on it."

Jerome Kass remembers it well: "I said, 'Jerry: Cinderella,' and he went crazy for it. And that's how we're doing it." Mitchell will workshop the material for a planned revised revival of the show that Tony nominee Kass wrote with Billy Goldenberg (music) and Alan and Marilyn Bergman (lyrics), with Tyne Daly on board in the (now royal) lead role; the TV-movie title will be restored.

It'll hew a Cinderella course, he said. "I could never get any of the other directors to do it with that concept. Michael Bennett didn't want to do it that way, and the director who did the TV movie [Sam O'Steen] wasn't interested—yet there it is.

"The story is really Cinderella for a 60-year-old woman. Her daughter and her sister are the wicked stepsisters, and the waitress across the way who brings her to the ballroom is the fairy godmother. And that's the structure of the whole play."

Not only does the show have fairy-tale roots, it has autobiographical ones as well, and "a lot of un-rewriting" will be required to return the story to its original form, he figured. "I threw a lot away. The character of the son, I threw away. I was the son.

"When my mother died, these people came to pay their respects when we were in mourning. They said, 'We're from the Stardust Ballroom.' I didn't even know that my mother was going to the Stardust Ballroom. Not only that, they told me she was a queen. I said, 'What do you mean, she was a queen?' They said she used to welcome everybody who came to the ballroom. And that's how I got the idea for the movie.

"At the cemetery, there was a man standing in the background, and I asked my aunt who he was. She said, 'He was your mother's lover.' I said, 'My mother had a lover?' I didn't even know that. It was so shocking. That all became part of the film."

— Harry Haun

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