This fall, off-Broadway's York Theatre Company revives four musicals not seen in New York since their premieres: Big, A Time for Singing, Saturday Night, and My Favorite Year — as part of its annual Musicals in Mufti series of script-in-hand concert readings of relatively unseen shows. TheaterMania asked members of each original creative team to provide anecdotes from their time spent working on these shows.
We continue our series with A Time for Singing, Gerald Freedman and John Morris' musical adaptation of Richard Llewellyn's novel How Green Was My Valley. Directed by Michael Montel, the run began October 25 and continues through November 2.
Gerald Freedman, book and lyrics:
[Composer] John Morris and I first met on Bells Are Ringing in 1956. He did the dance arrangements and I was assistant director to Jerome Robbins. It was my first Broadway show. The idea for A Time For Singing was John’s. He’s passionately Welsh-American, and was in love with the novel How Green Was My Valley and John Ford’s wonderful movie. He’d written a few of songs and played them for me. He was a wonderful musician and pianist. I encouraged him to write more and we started working on it together. He worked best when we were in the same room, and we wrote most of it — music, book and lyrics — side by side.
We wrote the whole show on spec. We didn’t have an agreement with Richard Llewellyn and he had turned down others before. We were crazy to do all this without a contract. Our agent talked back and forth with his, and one day out of the blue we got a phone call. Mr. Llewellyn was flying from South America back to Wales and had a layover of a few hours at Kennedy [Airport]. He took a taxi to John’s apartment and we sang the show for him. He sat quietly and attentively. When we finished he burst into tears and said, "Boys, the show is yours!"
We opened late May 1966 during a major newspaper strike. The only paper not on strike was The New York Times. The uppity Stanley Kauffmann reviewed it and shot us down good. He was fired from the Times not long after and replaced by Walter Kerr. How I wish Walter had reviewed us. Audiences loved it and Alex tried some clever PR stunts, but we couldn’t build on box-office sales because of the strike. It closed after 51 performances on my birthday, June 25th.
Click here for more information and tickets to A Time for Singing.