A Great Many Plays and Musicals About The Movies

February 22nd, 2011 Comments Off on A Great Many Plays and Musicals About The Movies

You had to know that this was inevitable.

After my Thanksgiving catalogue of 37 Flicks Theatre Lovers Should Know and 13 Docs That Theatre Lovers Should Know, and my New Year’s disgorgement of An Awful Lot of Plays and Musicals About Theatre, it was inevitable that I would close the circle with this blog, enumerating plays which look at the act of moviemaking and the environs of Hollywood.

There is one strong theme that emerges in these plays, which is that the authors see theatre as purer than Hollywood, and indeed that the film industry is a corrupting influence on artists. Although some of the works show great affection for film genres, the actual process by which movies get made gets low marks from playwrights, and it’s up to the viewers or historians to determine whether that perception comes from experience, jealousy or sheer invention. But overall, playwrights don’t seem to regard the business of moviemaking as representative of or conducive to the creation of art (and producers take a particular hit). Hollywood is not much good for your moral fiber either.

There are many shows that are parodies of or homages to particular films or film genres; one need only look to the work of Charles Ludlam and Charles Busch to find countless examples. But they are about the product of Hollywood, rather than moviemaking itself, so save for a handful of broadly encompassing examples, curtain-to-curtain parodies of genre films do not appear on this list.

This list also highlights the fluidity of stories between film and theatre, as once again there are entries that appeared on the earlier lists, having either begun life as a play and then become a movie, or vice versa, as well as plays that present theatre and film in counterpoint to one another within the same script. It’s also worth noting how often the names of George S. Kaufman, Betty Comden and Adolph Green appear in the list; clearly they had a lot to say on the subject of movies.

Please note that I have defined my territory as plays about the movies, not the entire entertainment industry of Hollywood. Consequently, with a few exceptions, plays about the music industry (Buh-bye, Dreamgirls!) and in particular television (Sorry, The Ruby Sunrise! Apologies, The Farnsworth Invention!) don’t appear. Screen adaptations of plays, and vice versa, would be another blog altogether, and that’s been written about plenty of times anyway.

As always, I don’t pretend that this list is so exhaustively researched as to be definitive. Instead, I hope it’s merely the jumping off point for readers to add their own knowledge to the piece by listing other examples in the comments section.

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ADULT EDUCATION by Elaine May It’s by pure alphabetical accident, but how fitting that a singular screenwriter and one-time improv comedy darling chose the stage to send up the porn film industry and landed first on this list. May’s comedy imagines the scenario if a bunch of adult film stars and their director developed artistic pretensions and attempted to make a film of insight and value. Compared to many of the plays discussed below, May’s comedy takes an affectionate view of her characters, rather than simply hitting the fairly easy target that is XXX-filmmaking.

AMAZONS AND THEIR MEN by Jordan Harrison As “Hitler’s filmmaker,” Leni Riefenstahl has been admired for her technical skills and reviled for her collaboration with the Nazi regime, as well as her subsequent disavowals of any political aims of her own. So, referred to only as The Frau, she gets her comeuppance in this imagining of a true-life event, in which she attempts and fails to make a movie about Achilles’ battle with the Amazons, as did Riefenstahl as World War II was breaking out.

ANGEL CITY by Sam Shepard Based on Shepard’s own experiences working on the screenplay of Zabriskie Point for Michelangelo Antonioni, this early work portrays a trio of unlikely screenwriters summoned by reprehensible producers to help salvage a film in a nightmare vision of Hollywood that leads to its destruction.

THE BIG KNIFE by Clifford Odets A film producer blackmails a star, threatening to reveal his role in a drunk driving accident that killed a child, in a drama drawn both from the life of Odets, who had an unhappy screenwriting career, and that of his original leading man and muse, John Garfield. It marked Odets’ return to Broadway after a six-year hiatus; his subsequent work, The Country Girl, was the greater success.

THE BIOGRAPH GIRL book by Warner Brown, music by David Heneker, lyrics by Brown and Heneker The intertwined fortunes of Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Mary Pickford, Adolph Zukor and D.W. Griffith form the core of this British musical that charts the rise and fall of silent films. Though praised for charm and wit, the show doesn’t fail to attend to the racial issues provoked by Griffith’s Birth of a Nation and the financial impact of the movies’ skyrocketing popularity.

BOY MEETS GIRL by Bella and Sam Spewack A madcap farce about two Hollywood screenwriters (possibly modeled on Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur) who are looking to put a new twist into the old formula that gives the show its name, but the most available “girl” is a widow whose bigamist husband has left her with their infant son, Happy, who becomes a major film star.

BRECHT IN HOLLYWOOD devised by Goran Stefanovski Although it promises the story of Brecht’s sojourn in California, that goes unremarked upon in this loose assemblage of Brecht’s work that may be most notable for featuring, in its London premiere production, Vanessa Redgrave in tap shoes.

BRECHT IN L.A. by Rick Mitchell The clash between Brecht’s personal philosophies about life and theatre and the materialistic, populist mindset of the film community form the core of the drama about the noted playwright’s life in California, during which he had trouble finding work, collaborated with Charles Laughton on a stage production of Galileo, and was ultimately called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

The CHARLIE CHAPLIN Shows (Chaplin with book, music and lyrics by Anthony Newley; Chaplin with book by Ernest Kinoy, music by Roger Anderson and lyrics by Lee Goldsmith; Charlie Chaplin Goes to War (aka Chaplin) by Simon Bradbury and Dan Kamin; Limelight aka Behind the Limelight, book by Thomas Meehan, music and lyrics by Christopher Curtis) Certain figures in Hollywood seem to provide endless source material for dramatists and musical writers alike. Charlie Chaplin, perhaps because his movie ouevre is silent while his personal life spoke volumes, has been the subject of numerous stage portrayals. What is remarkable is that with many efforts, only a handful of which are listed, none has become a major success. Perhaps silence is golden.

City of AngelsCITY OF ANGELS book by Larry Gelbart, Music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by David Zippel This structurally ingenious musical toggles between the film noir story of tough guy gumshoe Stone and the Hollywood travails of his creator, screenwriter Stine, battling the usual studio meddling with his work, even as he lives out his fantasy life through the story of Stone.

COMPLETELY HOLLYWOOD (ABRIDGED) by the Reduced Shakespeare Company While parodies of films abound and are largely absent from this list, I would be remiss (and berated by the playwrights) if I did not make mention of this break-neck, ingenious compendium of filmmaking’s 100-plus-year history through condensations 186 great films, ranging alphabetically from Airplane! to The Wrong Man (what, no Zardoz?).

THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN by Martin McDonagh Rooted in the true-life making of Robert Flaherty’s quasi-documentary Man of Aran, set on the poverty stricken Islands off the coast of Ireland, McDonagh’s protagonist in “Cripple Billy” Clavan, who sees the arrival of a film crew in his otherwise stultifying community as a way up and perhaps out.

Hollywood/UkraineA DAY IN HOLLYWOOD/A NIGHT IN THE UKRAINE book by Dick Vosburgh, music by Frank Lazarus, lyrics by Vosburgh I certainly can’t skip this light-hearted entertainment romanticizing Hollywood films, which is really two unrelated one-acts, or more accurately, a first-act revue mixing new and classic songs, and a second act Marx Brothers-styled comedy (adapted from Chekhov’s The Bear, no less) with an original score. Tommy Tune’s Broadway staging lifted some ideas he had previously used in the musical DOUBLE FEATURE by Jeffrey Moss, which he had co-directed at the Long Wharf Theatre; that show contrasted the relationships of two present-day couples with the great romances of the silver screen.

THE DISENCHANTED by Budd Schulberg and Harvey Breit Although it has much more on its mind than just Hollywood, this little-remembered Tony-nominee for Best Play in the early 60s, drawn from Schulberg’s novel, won Jason Robards Jr. a Tony for his portrayal of a dissipated novelist at the end of his failed career in Hollywood, assigned to research a frothy entertainment by observing a college winter carnival, chaperoned by an aspiring screenwriter. Substitute F. Scott Fitzgerald and Schulberg himself for the play’s lead characters and you have a quasi-fictional account of an actual trip the two men took as “research” at the behest of movie execs in Fitzgerald’s final days.

EPIC PROPORTIONS by Larry Coen and David Crane Seen Off-Broadway in 1986 and then again on Broadway in 1999 (with co-writer Crane creating a sitcom you may have heard of called Friends in the interim), this comedy, despite the claim of its title, is an intimate behind the scenes look at the making of a Cecil B. DeMille-type biblical epic devoid of DeMille’s talent or budget.

FADE OUT, FADE IN book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Comden and Green A chorus girl is accidently chosen to star in a film, which inexplicably gets made before anyone discovers the mistake, at which point the movie is shelved. But when the film is let out of the can for a sneak preview, both it and its unlikely star become successes. This little seen musical ran on the strength of its star, Carol Burnett, although at one point she attempted to depart the production and was forced back in due to her contractual commitment.

FILM IS EVIL, RADIO IS GOOD by Richard Foreman Lest we neglect the avant-garde, theatrical innovator and enigma-generator Foreman lays out his thesis in his title and proceeds with an elliptical debate on the subject, punctuating it in the original production with, paradoxically, a very good film, and letting the audience draw his take on the theatre from the play they’re watching that juxtaposes the other mediums.

FLIGHT Conceived by Steve Pearson, text by Robyn Hunt Drawn from a true story from 100 years ago, the multifaceted story of two young French actresses who take a break from a production of The Seagull (note metaphor) to serve as a flight team in the early days of aviation. Movies enter the picture as Alisse, a documentary filmmaker, chronicles the endeavor.

FORBIDDEN HOLLYWOOD by Gerard Alessandrini Much like his series of Forbidden Broadway shows, Alessandrini’s Hollywood foray was a send up of both movies themselves as well as the business and gossip behind them, using tunes from classic movie musicals.

FOUR DOGS AND A BONE by John Patrick Shanley Moral bankruptcy abounds in Shanley’s satire of filmmaking as two actresses attempt to manipulate a screenwriter for larger roles in a low-budget film, while a take-no-prisoners producer pursues his own agenda. This 1993 comedy follows Shanley’s Oscar-winning hit Moonstruck and his less-successful directing debut with Joe Vs. The Volcano, but predates Congo, which became his last screenplay credit for 13 years.

GENIUSES by Jonathan Reynolds A biting look at Hollywood in general and the runaway production history of Coppola’s Apocalypse Now in particular, Reynolds’ characters belie the play’s title at every turn, from the sadomasochistic art director to the Hemingway-emulating make-up man, to the jaded screenwriter; the only smart person in evidence is the bimbo (and director’s mistress) brought in to doff her clothes gratuitously at one point in the film. Given the enduring legacy of the Coppola film (itself the subject of a documentary by Coppola’s wife, Hearts of Darkness), it’s surprising no one has revived this comedy for a new generation.

GOLDILOCKS book by Walter and Jean Kerr, music by Leroy Anderson, lyrics by Joan Ford and The Kerrs A sharp tongued actress who’s about to forsake the stage for marriage to a fat cat and an egomaniacal producer who latches onto her as his next big screen star battle their way to romance in this little-remembered Broadway musical that featured no less than Elaine Stritch and Don Ameche in the pre-sound era. Just imagine: Elaine Stritch, but no sound…

A HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN FILM by Christopher Durang, music by Mel Marvin, lyrics by Durang A mad dash through some 40 years of movie genres, as five classic character types journey through plotlines reminiscent of film staples. At once an homage to and comment on the content of Hollywood product, the show achieved a remarkable “hat trick” premiere, opening in entirely separate productions at Hartford Stage, Arena Stage and the Mark Taper Forum only a few weeks apart from each other.

HOLLYWOOD EXPOSED by Michael Tester Another spoof of Hollywood genres, featuring Friday the 13th, The Ballet; Maria von Trapp endorsing Valium; Elmer Fudd appearing in Singin’ in the Wayne and selections from Dirty Harry Dancing and A Very Brady Exorcist.

HOLLYWOOD PINAFORE, OR THE LAD WHO LOVED A SALARY book and lyrics by George S. Kaufman, music by Sir Arthur Sullivan Debuting on Broadway only a week after Memphis Bound took the same source material, Gilbert and Sullivan’sH.M.S. Pinafore, on a trip to the American south, Kaufman’s version used it as the framework for a Hollywood satire in which a young starlet is promised in marriage to a studio head by her ambitious director father, while she really loves a disgraced screenwriter. It managed on 52 performances in 1945 (16 better than Bound).

HurlyburlyHURLYBURLY by David Rabe Think that Hollywood is filled with narcissistic, substance-abusing, morally bankrupt low-lifes focused on their own gratification? Then this is the play for you.

I OUGHT TO BE IN PICTURES by Neil Simon Listed more for its title than its topic, Simon’s 18th play focused more much on the rapprochement behind a father and his estranged daughter, but it has its share of Hollywood humor thanks to the father’s formerly successful, now blocked, career as a screenwriter.

KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN In the darkest of circumstances, a filthy jail in a Latin American country, two political prisoners sustain themselves by escaping from hellish reality into fantasies of the motion pictures, one of the few examples on this list where the movies are lifelines. Available in both play (by original novelist Manuel Puig) and musical (by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Terrence McNally) versions.

LIKE TOTALLY WEIRD by William Mastrosimone Two teenaged delinquents break into the home of a schlock action film producer and proceed to terrorize the man and his girlfriend by recreating scenes from the producer’s own films. A seemingly exploitative play that examines the responsibility of those who create senseless violence for public consumption.

THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED by Douglas Carter Beane A scathing and hilarious look at Hollywood mores and double-standards, Beane’s sharp comedy about a fast-talking, amoral agent who’s trying, by any means necessary, to keep her young star client from coming out of the closet manages to have its cake and eat it too, because the crass, soulless agent is also the most perceptive and funniest person on the stage.

LOOPED by Matthew Lombardo Although Tallulah Bankhead was better known for her stage work and for her flamboyant and risque public persona, this recent Broadway outing chose to focus on the star as she struggles to re-record a single line of dialogue for an undistinguished film thriller, earning it a place on this list. Bankhead has proven a favorite of stage writers and stars, generating numerous shows about her life, includingTallulah, book by William F. Brown, lyrics by Mae Richard, Music by Ted SimonTallulah by Sandra Ryan HowardTallulah Who? with book by William Rushton, music and lyrics by Suzi Quatro and Shirlie RodenTallulah, A Memory by Eugenie Rawls; and Tallulah Hallelujah! By Larry Amoros, Tovah Feldshuh and Linda Selman.

MACK AND MABEL book by Michael Stewart , music and lyrics by Jerry Herman The intertwined professional and personal lives of early filmmaker Mack Sennett and his leading lady Mabel Normand are the basis for this much-tinkered-with musical about their romance. A favorite of musical theatre buffs, it has a hard time reconciling the darker aspects of the true-life tale to the musical comedy conventions that were still in place when it was created, resulting in numerous attempts to “fix” the show in the more than 35 years since its short-lived Broadway premiere.

A MAP OF THE WORLD by David Hare An extremely complex play which takes place in Bombay at a 1978 UNESCO conference on poverty, as well as at a contemporary British film studio where a movie is being made about the conference’s behind-the-scenes events, based upon a novel about the conference. Needless to say, the film of the novel of the conference is highly reductive, highlighting the failure of moviemaking to do justice to either the novel or its factual basis.

MARILYN: AN AMERICAN FABLE book by Patricia Michaels; music and lyrics by many collaborators Though inevitably any retelling of the short, tragic life of Marilyn Monroe would at face value be bound to be an indictment of Hollywood, this musical treatment focused more on her men than her movies. But hers was a Hollywood life after all, so this merits inclusion, despite the Broadway production being, you should pardon the expression, a candle in the wind.

Merrily We Roll AlongMERRILY WE ROLL ALONG book by George Furth, music and lyrics by Stephen SondheimWhile the anti-hero of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s original play was a theatrical success, Furth and Sondheim begin their backward-moving musical with their compromised writer having sold out to Hollywood after having begun in the theatre. Sharp barbs are tossed at movie society in the earlier parts of the show, before we move backwards to a time of more integrity and before that, aspiration.

MERTON OF THE MOVIES by George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly A bad actor becomes a comedy star when producer realize his incompetence in drama results in successful comedy. Quite remarkably, the play debuted in 1922, based on a 1919 book, making it one of the earliest stage satires of Hollywood and finding success while the silent film era was still in full swing.

MINNIE’S BOYS book by Arthur Marx and Robert Fisher, music by Larry Grossman, lyrics by Hal Hackady This is included only to point out why it doesn’t belong here. The story of the Marx Brothers and their mom (a regular Mama Rose was she), focuses entirely on their vaudeville days and ends with their discovering their trademark personas, which were honed on stage before being transferred to Hollywood.

MIZLANSKY/ZILINSKY, OR SCHMUCKS by Jon Robin Baitz Schlock producer Davis Mizlansky has the I.R.S. breathing down his neck as he works to convince his partner Sam Zilinsky to embrace the idea of celebrity retellings of Bible stories for children, such as “Sodom and Gomorrah: The True Story,” even though the backer for the project may also be a Nazi sympathizer.

MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS by Ron Hutchinson Focused on the five days in which producer David O. Selznick, writer Ben Hecht and Victor Fleming rewrote the screenplay of Gone With the Wind, this true-life tale chooses to play artistic desperation and potential financial ruin for laughs. Of course, we know the resulting film was a big hit, so there’s little need for reverence or any genuine suspense.

MY FAVORITE YEAR book by Joseph Dougherty, music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens Although it’s one of the many fictionalized dramatizations of life behind the scenes at Sid Caesar’s television hit Your Show of ShowsMFY belongs on this list because of its portrayal of Alan Swann, a dissipated one-time swashbuckling star, now reduced to a guest shot on the new medium known as television, and the idealized Hollywood dreams of our protagonist, young Benjy Stone, that, as a result of Swann’s personal failings, are forced to fall by the wayside. Life is not like the movies at all.

NINE book by Arthur Kopit, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston Fellini’s film 8 1/2 is the basis for this highly stylized musical about film director Guido Contini and the many women in his life. While the backdrop is moviemaking (although in this case Cinecitta rather than Warner Brothers), it’s the relationships that form the backbone of the episodic story.

ONCE IN A LIFETIME by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman A light-hearted satire of three out of work actors who head west to find work in the new field of talking pictures, convinced that their stage training will give them an edge over the once-silent stars of the era, this was first written by Hart and subsequently polished in partnership with Kaufman in the first of their eight collaborations. The show was promised several years ago as a musical, GOING HOLLYWOOD, by David Zippel, Jonathan Sheffer and Joe Leonardo, but it has yet to materialize.

PASSIONELLA from The Apple Tree, book by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, music by Bock and lyrics by Harnick The final chapter of Bock and Harnick’s tripartite chamber musical is drawn from Jules Feiffer‘s illustrated subversion of the Cinderella tale, in which a chimney sweeping drudge is transformed into a glamorous movie star. For the trivia minded, this was the second effort to bring Passionella to the musical stage; the earlier failed version was by Feiffer and some guy named Sondheim.

POPCORN by Ben Elton Stop me if you’ve heard this one: two killers on a serial murder spree hole up at the home of the schlock action film producer whose movies have inspired them and, knowing they’re likely to be caught soon, force the producer to accept the responsibility for their own depraved behavior. Adapted from Elton’s own 1996 novel of the same name.

ROAD TO NIRVANA (aka BONE-THE-FISH) by Arthur Kopit A conflation of David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow and its original much-hyped Broadway production starring Madonna, this structurally and dramatically similar play expresses its own contempt for the state of modern Hollywood but seems to have contempt for Mr. Mamet’s tale as well, in this case telling the story of a rock star who attempts to pass off Moby Dick as her autobiography, with her in the place of Ahab, and the competitive producers vying to one-up each other.

THE ROYAL FAMILY by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman Yes, yes, I know it’s primarily focused on its two leading ladies, stage doyennes Fanny and Julie Cavendish, and modeled on The Barrymores, but there are more than a few poisoned arrows pointed at Hollywood via the character of Tony Cavendish, who has forsaken the stage for the louche and lucrative world of the screen.

SEARCH AND DESTROY by Howard Korder A morally bankrupt young man on the lam from the I.R.S. takes refuge where only such an empty vessel can succeed: Hollywood, where he embarks on a series of misadventures including drug abuse and murder in preparation for producing his first movie, Dead World.

SHAKESPEARE IN HOLLYWOOD by Ken Ludwig Based in the true-life making of the classic film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by recent refugee Max Reinhardt, the farceur Ludwig ups the ante by having the “real” Oberon and Puck materialize on the film set to complicate the production.

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN book adapted by Betty Comden and Adolph Green from their screenplay, with pre-existing songs Amidst so many dark visions, Singin’ in the Rain is a ray of sunshine of stage shows about the movies, admittedly a straightforward adaptation of the utterly delightful love letter to Hollywood that is the original film, turning on the transition from silent films to talkies. One of the early cases of an original film musical subsequently being turned into a stage vehicle, the stage Singin’ marked the Broadway debut of Twyla Tharp as director and choreographer.

SLASHER by Allison Moore If the making of porn can be the subject of a stage play about movies, then the slasher genre should get a shot (or cleaver, or buzzsaw) too. Moore’s play portrays Sheena, a Texas waitress who secures a role in a low-budget horror film shooting nearby in order to make ends meet, the prospect of which causes her wheelchair-bound mother to go…CRAZY! A simultaneous spoof of horror films and feminist commentary on their objectification of women.

speed the plowSPEED-THE-PLOW by David Mamet A crass, driven Hollywood big shot comes to question his profession and his purpose when he has to choose between making a sure-hit blockbuster and an esoteric film championed by his temp assistant. Like so many plays of Mamet, an accomplished screenwriter and film director, the story particulars are less important than the gender politics and macho battles that erupt within it.

STONES IN HIS POCKETS by Marie Jones Not unlike The Cripple of Inishmaan, Stones portrays the effects of a film crew’s arrival on a small Irish village, once the location for filming of The Quiet Man, although in this case the film is big budget Hollywood epic and the entire village is portrayed by only two men. While it has its share of standard Hollywood satirical jokes, Stones manages to retain a vision of Hollywood as a dream factory and America as a land paved with gold, even as it shares some darker stories of the filming, including the one that gives the play its name.

SUNSET BOULEVARD book by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Black and Hampton The classic film noir by Billy Wilder, of a forgotten silent screen siren who dreams of a comeback and her ill-fated dalliance with a down on his luck screenwriter, is transferred to the stage with a good bit of its tawdriness intact. The deluded, pathetic, grasping Norma Desmond and her kept man Joe Gillis encapsulate everything that’s was wrong with Hollywood for two different generations.

THEDA BARA AND THE FRONTIER RABBI book by Jeff Hochhauser, music by Bob Johnston, lyrics by Hochhauser and Johnston A young rabbi’s forbidden attraction to the films of silver screen siren Theda Bara, Bara’s true identity as Theodosia Goodman (who just wants to find a nice Jewish boy to settle down with), and the efforts of one Selwyn Farp to have the rabbi lead a movie industry watchdog group form the basis of this musical romantic comedy that manages to mix religious issues into the standard tale of Hollywood allure and true life values.

THE VAMP book by John LaTouche and Sam Locke, music by James Mundy, lyrics by LaTouche Created as a vehicle for Carol Channing, this musical take-off on the silent screen career of – here she is again – Theda Bara proved one of Channing’s rare flops (60 performances), of which she later wrote that she should have simply walked out while it was out-of-town in Washington.

TRUE WEST by Sam Shepard Though it’s the sibling rivalry that most recall about this Shepard comedy, one shouldn’t forget that at the start, brother Austin is at work on a screenplay, one of the four characters is an unctuous film producer, and the filmic metaphor of what the west really represents gets trashed as the brothers metamorphose as a result of their dangerous proximity.

TWENTIETH CENTURY by Ben Hecht & Charles MacArthur/ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Comden & Green Although the main focus is on theatre in both the play and musical version of a down on his luck theatrical producer who works to woo his one-time protégée back to the stage and into his arms, there are zingers aplenty for Hollywood as producer Oscar Jaffe works to win a contract out of screen siren Lily Garland (nee Mildred Plotka).

WHAT A GLORIOUS FEELING by Jay Berkow with pre-existing songs Belonging to the “let’s look behind the scenes of a movie we all know well,” this play with songs focuses on the romantic triangle between Singin’ in the Rain‘s co-directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen and the film’s dance captain and Donen’s ex-wife Jeanne Coyne. Portrayals of producer Arthur Freed and leading lady Debbie Reynolds round out the cast. And for those who shout “jukebox musical,” just remember that the originalSingin’ didn’t have original songs either; they were drawn from a back catalogue of 20 to 30 years vintage.

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While I began with a disclaimer regarding the completeness of the list you’ve just read, I would be remiss if I didn’t note that a new addition will be making its debut very shortly: BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK by Lynn Nottage. Because the play has not yet had its world premiere — it begins previews in April at New York’s Second Stage) — I will borrow a synopsis from that theatre’s marketing copy: “the life of Vera Stark, a headstrong African-American maid and budding actress, and her tangled relationship with her boss, a white Hollywood star desperately grasping to hold on to her career. When circumstances collide and both women land roles in the same Southern epic, the story behind the cameras leaves Vera with a surprising and controversial legacy.” And thus another play about the movies is born.

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I would like to thank the many folks who helped me to build this list, even those whose suggestions may not have made the cut as a result of my arbitrary and mercurial nature and guidelines. Via Twitter, I give my appreciation to:




@raisinsliaisons@reduced@spaltor and @thenygalavant.

Via Facebook and e-mail, I am indebted to Casey Childs, Roger Danforth, Michael Dove, Jane Lipka Helfgott, Larry Hirschhorn, Dawson Howard, Ben Pesner, Heather Randall, Scott Rice, Ellen Richard, Eric Savitz, Susan L. Schulman, Ed Windels, and Randall Wreghitt. MVP goes to Bert Fink.


This post originally appeared on the American Theatre Wing website.

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