YOU'RE DOIN' FINE, OKLAHOMA!: As the first musical to be staged under the tenure of new Artistic Director Trevor Nunn, Britain's Royal National Theatre will present OKLAHOMA!, directed by Nunn himself (CATS, LES MISRABLES), beginning performances in early July and scheduled to run at least through the summer...London's first major production of OKLAHOMA! since the Cameron Mackintosh-produced, James Hammerstein-directed revival of 1980, this latest version will feature choreography by Susan Stroman (SHOW BOAT, CRAZY FOR YOU), designed by Anthony Ward (OLIVER!) and lit by David Hersey (CATS)...For further information call the RNT Box Office at 01144171-452-3000.
AFTER THE BALL: As reported in our previous issue, the November '97 broadcast premiere of CINDERELLA starring Brandy and Whitney Houston was seen by over 60 million viewers, setting records for host network ABC and the TV musical genre alike...More records were broken when the Home Video edition was released by Buena Vista in February '98; with initial sales of over 2 million units (quadrupling the previous record for TV-to-video sales), CINDERELLA remained on the Billboard Video Sales Charts for seven consecutive weeks, and in its first month joined AIR FORCE ONE and HERCULES as VideoScan's top three selling titles...Look for a TV rebroadcast of the ""Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?"" musical on Valentine's Night, 1999.
BEGUILED AGAIN: PAL JOEY is returning to the big time with a new production of the Rodgers & Hart classic announced by Livent (SHOW BOAT), and featuring the talents of four Tony winners: Terrence McNally (KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, MASTER CLASS) will write a new book, returning to John O'Hara's original short stories for further inspiration; Frank Galati (THE GRAPES OF WRATH) will direct; Ann Reinking (CHICAGO) will choreograph; and maestro John Mauceri (ON YOUR TOES) will serve as Musical Supervisor...(Encyclopedic minds will recall that Reinking choreographed PAL JOEY at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in 1988, and that the ON YOUR TOES Mauceri co-produced in 1983 marked the first and so far only time a Broadway revival used original scores and orchestrations)...After an initial reading in August at the Fifth Annual Summer Festival of New Works at York University in Toronto, PAL JOEY is slated for full production by the end of the century.
HAMMERSTEINBECK: Visitors to the new National Steinbeck Center opening this summer in legendary author John Steinbeck's hometown of Salinas, California will find a corner of the permanent exhibition dedicated to PIPE DREAM, Rodgers & Hammerstein's 1955 Broadway musical based on Steinbeck's novels CANNERY ROW and SWEET THURSDAY...Their collaboration grew out of a long friendship between R&H and Steinbeck; the musical duo produced Steinbeck's short-lived 1950 Broadway play BURNING BRIGHT, and knew his wife, the indefatigable Elaine Steinbeck, from her days as one of their original stage managers on OKLAHOMA!...The PIPE DREAM exhibition, featuring a recreation of the boiler-pipe home that Suzy makes for herself in the musical's second act, will also include production photographs, watercolor scenic sketches by Jo Mielziner and audio excerpts from the RCA Victor Original Cast Album...For further information call the Steinbeck Center at 408/753-6411 or visit their website at www.steinbeck.org... Incidentally, in April the aforementioned Mrs. Steinbeck was honored by the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, New York, where Bruce Springsteen - a fan of her husband's, and a friend of hers - serenaded Elaine with a song she cued some years ago: ""Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin.'""
A LONG LONG WAY TO RUN: In early spring the first production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC was staged in the People's Republic of China...Performed in Mandarin by the Oriental Song and Dance Ensemble, its cast was headed by pop music star Cheng Fangyuan as Maria, with her real-life husband (and popular television news anchor) Wang Gang as von Trapp...Budgeted at 2 million Yuan ($240,000), the ten-performance run in Beijing became the hottest ticket in town, with seats costing up to 480 Yuan ($60) - the most ever charged in that city, with black market prices fetching 12 times that.
HAVING A YEN FOR R&H: One of the highest-grossing foreign films in U.S. history, Japan's SHALL WE DANCE?, would have been named for another popular American standard if it had not been for Williamson Music's Japanese sub-agent, Namihiko Sasaki of EMI Music Publishing, Japan Ltd...With his creative input, the film's writer and director, Masayuki Suo, chose to use the irresistible R&H polka as the title and theme of his 1996 worldwide hit, in which a middle-aged businessman discovers the joys of ballroom dancing; the film also illustrated the fact that R&H musicals are part of Japanese popular culture, and have been for decades...R&H songs are currently heard on Japanese TV and radio commercials, with ""Happy Talk"" pitching for Kirin Lager Beer, ""Edelweiss"" for J-Phone, and ""My Favorite Things"" for JR Tokai...Theatrically, this past spring productions of THE KING AND I and THE SOUND OF MUSIC played Tokyo concurrently (and were visited by our Senior Vice President, Victoria Traube), preceded two years ago by a Japanese-language production of the Tony-winning revival of CAROUSEL, and last year by CINDERELLA.
FOLLOW THE FLEET: Cap'n Andy's sturdy show boat, the Cotton Blossom, has safely navigated the waters to Britain and Australia...Livent's production of SHOW BOAT opened at Sydney's new Lyric Theatre in mid-April with local stars Barry Otto, Nancye Hayes, and Marina Prior at the helm...Several weeks later an American company arrived at London's Prince Edward Theatre, headed by George Grizzard and Carole Shelley...Two more SHOW BOAT companies continue to tour North America; Tom Bosley and Karen Morrow head up one vessel, and Dean Jones and Cloris Leachman steer the other...Upcoming ports of call include Sacramento, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Salt Lake City, and Dallas...For further information visit www.livent.com.
THE KING IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE KING: After 807 performances, THE KING AND I closed on February 22 at the Neil Simon Theatre, making it Broadway's longest-running R&H revival...Its glorious reign was marked by the presence of three stellar Anna's - Tony winner Donna Murphy, plus Faith Prince and Marie Osmond - and two great Kings: Outer Critics Circle Award winner Lou Diamond Phillips, and Kevin Gray...Cited unanimously as the Best Musical Revival of 1996 with Broadway's triple crown - the Tony, the Drama Desk, and the Outer Critics Circle Award - THE KING AND I also launched a U.S. National Tour, starring Hayley Mills in its first year, succeeded by Osmond this Spring and Maureen McGovern this Summer...The tour concludes in Chicago in July, and a London production is under discussion.
SHALL WE DANCE?: FOOTLOOSE is on the fast track to Broadway...As previously reported, The R&H Theatre Library will license stock and amateur rights to this film-to-stage dancefest - someday...But first, FOOTLOOSE is going for a long and healthy run on Broadway and the road...Directed by Tony winner Walter Bobbie (CHICAGO) with choreography by TV, film and concert veteran A.C. Ciulla, FOOTLOOSE is based on the 1984 hit movie musical, and cuts loose with a score that features all the hits from the movie such as ""Let's Hear it For the Boy"" and ""Almost Paradise,"" augmented by nine new songs written for the stage...Presented by Dodger Endemol Theatricals (THE KING AND I) in association with Madison Square Garden Productions, with book by original screenwriter Dean Pitchford and Bobbie, lyrics by Pitchford, music by Tom Snow, and additional songs by Kenny Loggins, Eric Carmen, Sammy Hagar and Jim Steinman, FOOTLOOSE starts performances at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre on October 2...For further information visit www.dodger.com.
RNH DOT COM: We're proud to report that our website, www.rnh.com, continues to attract steady traffic from all over the world, and that more and more of our Theatre and Concert Library customers are using its e-mail application and Advance Search tools...New and improved facets include a revised and more efficient Concert Library search, and a special entry to our Irving Berlin interests at www.irvingberlin.com...Already picked as a Site of the Day by Infinet, NetGuide, USA Today and Project Cool, rnh.com was also featured in the January issue of Yahoo! as one of two ""Entertainment sites of the month,"" alongside the official Rolling Stones website - the first time, we presume, that Dick Rodgers and Mick Jagger shared anything...Future plans for rnh.com include an expanded News section, and RealAudio excerpts in the Theatre Library and Williamson Music sections.
I COULD WRITE A BOOK: Meryle Secrest, the distinguished biographer of Leonard Bernstein and Frank Lloyd Wright among others, has written a comprehensive biography of Stephen Sondheim that dovetails with R&H history in its coverage of his years with the Hammerstein family, his role as production go-fer on ALLEGRO, and his collaboration with Rodgers on DO I HEAR A WALTZ?; Stephen Sondheim: A Life (Knopf, 1998) includes recollections from our own Mary Rodgers, James Hammerstein and original FOLLIES go-fer Ted Chapin...Secrest is already deep into her next project: a definitive biography of Richard Rodgers due out before his centennial in 2002...Also at work on a Rodgers biography are Amy Asch and Jeffrey Lunden; theirs is expected from Schirmer Books in Fall '99...Already in stores is William Hyland's biography, Richard Rodgers, published by Yale University Press in May...Irving Berlin is also getting multiple scholarly treatments: Philip Furia's Irving Berlin: A Life in Song will be published by Schirmer Books in September '98, and Edward Jablonski's Irving Berlin: American Troubadour is expected from Henry Holt in Spring '99...Look for more on these books in future issues."