Band in Berlin is waiting in the wings of Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre following the Nov. 29 closing of Getting & Spending, but it'll be February before the musical biography of a Nazi-era German singing group arrives.
Michael J. Chepiga's socially-aware comedy, Getting & Spending, about a criminal investment banker (Linda Purl) and a monastic-minded attorney (David Rasche), received poor-to-lukewarm reviews after its Oct. 25 opening (previews began Oct. 6) but limped along until the weekend of Thanksgiving. It had a run last summer (with a slightly different cast) at the nonprofit Old Globe Theatre in San Diego under John Tillinger's direction.
Getting and Spending played 23 previews and 39 regular performances.
Bob Straus, general manager of Band in Berlin, said details are still being worked out, but previews will begin in February for a late February or early March opening at the Hayes. A spokesperson for the Hayes said nothing has been announced for the theatre between now and February, leaving a prime, intimate Broadway house dark over the holidays.
No cast has been announced for Susan Feldman's play with music, to be directed and choreographed by Patricia Birch, whose musical staging credits range from Grease to Pacific Overtures. **
Berlin played the American Music Theatre Festival March 11-22, 1998, at the WHYY Forum Theatre in Philadelphia. It featured the sextet Hudson Shad, and was co-directed by Feldman and Birch, and choreographed by Birch.
The show is about The Comedian Harmonists, who rose to prominence in 1920s Germany, and were inspired by well-known American groups of the era like the Mills Brothers and the Texas Revellers. Half of the Harmonists' members were Jewish, and -- as Hitler rose to power -- the group was increasingly harassed by German censors. In 1935 they were forced to disband.
Earlier this fall, the musical was due to move into Union Square Theatre, but was thwarted when Visiting Mr. Green suddenly opted to extend its run at that Off-Broadway house. That bit of misfortune turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Berlin, who graduated to a Broadway run. Additionally, in attaining the Hayes, Berlin beat out its main competitor for the theatre, the Off-Broadway hit Wit, sending that show to -- where else -- the Union Square Theatre (beginning performances Dec. 18).
Band in Berlin utilizes multimedia elements (including film, projections and shadow puppetry) and features songs that became closely identified with the Harmonists -- "Stormy Weather," "Night and Day," "Tea for Two," "Whistle While You Work," Duke Ellington's "Creole Love Call" and even a vocal "arrangement" of the overture to The Barber of Seville.