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The Man Who Would Be King

Class of 2001

Only half of the original Manhattan Theatre Club cast of A CLASS ACT will return for the show

By New York City

The MTC cast of A Class Act
The MTC cast of A Class Act

A NEW CLASS CAST

Death and birth and the vagaries of producing will not keep A Class Act from opening at the Ambassador on March 11. Previews begin--appropriately, for a show about the man who wrote the lyrics for A Chorus Line's "What I Did for Love"--on Valentine's Day.

Though the entire, eight-member company of the show's initial run at Manhattan Theatre Club recorded the original cast album for RCA, only half of them are aboard for the Broadway run. Julia Murney is honoring a previous MTC commitment to do Time and Again, so her part has gone to Sara Ramirez, who recently did the MTC workshop for The New Yorkers. Jonathan Freeman's role of Lehman Engel will now be played by Patrick Quinn. (Good choice!) Ray Wills is making a mad dash for The Producers, leaving his Class Act slot to Jeff Blumenkrantz, that tall drink of water from How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Damn Yankees. Carolee Carmello insists on having her baby, so her part will be played by Donna Bullock, who replaced Marin Mazzie in Ragtime.

The remaining original cast members are Lonny Price, Randy Graff, David Hibbard and Nancy Kathryn Anderson. Price directed and co-wrote the piece with Linda Kline. The inestimable David Loud (Steel Pier, Master Class) takes over as musical director from Todd Ellison, who is headed for 42nd Street. And Marguerite Derrick has graduated from assistant choreographer to choreographer; the three-time Emmy winner put Austin Powers through his moves and worked with director Price on reviving Finian's Rainbow.

A Class Act is a loving leaf through the late Ed Kleban's songbook (words and music) disguised as his musical biography, punctuated by numbers from all his big, unproduced shows: Scandal (written with Michael Bennett for Swoosie Kurtz and Treat Williams), Gallery (which never got beyond a workshop at The Public), Subject To Change (with book by Peter Stone), Merton of the Movies, Scaramouche, and Musical Comedy (with book by Paul Rudnick). Not represented: his musicalization of A Thousand Clowns. Song for song, A Class Act will have the best score on Broadway--a living and lively legacy.

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KNOCK ON (ALL KINDS OF) WOOD

Even before they respectively created and co-produced The Lion King, Julie Taymor and Thomas Schumacher were both deep into puppetry, so it's logical that they'd have their collective four eyes out for future projects involving that art form. And, indeed, they have. Schumacher--who is also president of Walt Disney Feature Animation and a co-producer of Aida--has confirmed that, once Taymor finishes directing her film on Mexican artist Frieda Kahlo, she and the Disney elves will go into a Broadway huddle about a new Pinocchio.

"There are 120 different versions of Pinocchio available to be performed right now in America," says Schumacher. "Julie has a take on it, and we have our film version. Right now, we have a deal set up where we will develop that idea. Julie's vision would be sensational, so we will develop it and see whether or not we are in sync about it."

In a related Disney-wood matter, it has been reported that Schumacher has also successfully snapped up the theatrical rights to give Carnival another Broadway spin. Michael Stewart and Bob Merrill's 1961 Broadway musicalization of the hit 1953 flick Lili managed to top--or, at least, match--Bronislau Kaper's Oscar-winning song ("Hi Lili, Hi Lo") with the lilting "Love Makes the World Go 'Round."

Kristin Chenoweth
Kristin Chenoweth
Frank Galati, late of Seussical, is said to be directing a "low-keyed" reading of the piece. Casting it will be tricky: The lead is an innocent waif who believes a set of puppets are real people and converses with them accordingly. Leslie Caron brought it off with an Oscar-nomination flourish, and Anna Maria Alberghetti took the Tony Award for it. Singer-actresses like that don't grow on bunches, but they're out there. The night she won the Tony for You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Kristin Chenoweth said that Carnival was one of two shows she'd love to do while her remarkable voice holds out (she's a lyric soprano with a coloratura top). Plus, she'd be darlin' in the part.

The other show Chenoweth wants to do happens to be Schumacher's all-time favorite: Candide. "You simply have to listen to those melodies and the complexity of them, and it can't help but lift you off your feet," he says of that Bernstein score. "I'm also a huge Sondheim fan, although I tend to like the albums more than the actual Broadway shows."

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FATHER'S DAY

Jonathan Schwartz is no longer one who can say "I Never Sang for My Father." The host of the excellent Lincoln Center American Songbook series is giving dear old dad his musical due in a tribute to Arthur Schwartz, Something To Remember Him By, January 12 and 13 at Alice Tully Hall--and Jonathan's bro, Paul, will musically direct the show.

"Dancing in the Dark" and "You and the Night and the Music" are among the many evergreen songs that will be presented by the illustrious likes of Rebecca Luker, Davis Gaines, Maureen McGovern, John Pizzarelli, Jane Monheit and Bill Irwin. (P.S. Schwartz and lyricist Howard Dietz wrote "That's Entertainment" in 30 minutes.)

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HERE COMES "HOT LIPS"

Three decades have quietly slipped by since Sally Kellerman played a club in New York. Now, she's bound for Feinstein's at the Regency (January 18-February 8) in an act she wrote with Ken and Mitzi Welch: Sally Kellerman...More Than You Know.

It was cabaret that got Sally into the movies, really. Robert Altman caught her act at the Cinegrill in L.A. and cast her as "Hot Lips" Houlihan in the M*A*S*H movie, which opened the door to a 30-year tour of duty in pictures. Theater buffs can tell you how wonderful she was as Mag Wildwood in the landmark-bad Breakfast at Tiffany's, which never truly opened on Broadway. Kellerman and Mary Tyler Moore had a showstopper called "Home for Wayward Girls." Ya shoulda been there!


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