22 August 2009

The NIGHT MUSIC that almost was

A while back I began to play "Who's going to be who in the A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC REVIVAL?"

Well, according to Michael Reidel in the NY Post (an unconfirmed source who nonetheless doesn't often go to press with mere whimsy) not only is it looking increasingly likely that Angela freakin' Lansbury going to be Mme. Armfeldt, but Catherine Zeta Jones (Douglas) will star as the fading flower Desiree. CZJ did have a reasonably extensive musical theater career in the West End prior to becoming a movie star/Michael Douglas' wife/T Mobile's biotch, so I am not all that upset the role may go to her over one of Broadway's leading ladies. And if Angela Lansbury is in it, most things are right with the world.

In light of this casting news, I thought I'd share a story about the NIGHT MUSIC that almost was. This came to me directly from none other than Harold Prince. (I wrote him a letter saying "I want to meet you." He met with me. Real nice.) Here, with some artistic license (as in, I'm trying to recount I conversation I had 3 years ago), is the story.

ME: So I Just got back from working at Barring Stage Company for the summer.
MR PRINCE: Oh, what did they do?
ME: Typical summer stock stuff. The Human Comedy, Wonder of the World, and Ring Round the Moon.
MR PRINCE: That's not typical at all. [ed. He's right.] That's most unusual. You know, A Little Night Music was almost based on Ring Round the Moon.
ME: That's funny. Because I was thinking it would make a great musical, but when I told my roommate he said, "What would they sing about, how they're not in A Little Night Music"?
MR PRINCE (sagely): That's funny.
ME: So what happened?
MR PRINCE: We knew we wanted to do a romantic comedy, and we wanted people running through lots of doors. [ed. The only production of NIGHT MUSIC I've seen had no doors.] So we looked at Ring Round the Moon and Smiles of a Summer Night. I wrote Jean Anouilh about procuring the rights for Ring..., and he kept avoiding me. But I kept at it. Finally he said he was interested and told me to meet him, so Steve [ed. as in Sondheim] and I flew out to Paris to meet him only to find out he had just left the country. I didn't appreciate being jerked around, so we went with the Bergman film.
ME: Fascinating.
MR PRINCE: Anything else you want to ask me?
ME: Yeah. Why did you do all those musicals with Larry Grossman?

[ed. Yes, I am the dumb/smart ass who asked the esteemed Hal Prince why he wrote so many flop musicals in the 80s with the same guy. For the record, the answer, in short, was that he really likes "Mama, a Rainbow".]

In the end, I think the world of theater is a better place because Jean Anouilh was kind of a dick. Ring Round the Moon is fun because it requires its male lead to play twins. Madcap hilarity ensues. But there's a lot more philosophy about economics and less romance. And the show would've been all about Len Cariou with no real equivalent to Desiree. There is an old lady in a wheelchair though (played by Carole Shelly at BSC, who would make a fine Armfeldt, should the Lansbury rumors be too good to be true).

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