ANTA Playhouse, (3/30/1978 - 4/16/1978)

First Preview: Mar 14, 1978
Opening Date: Mar 30, 1978
Closing Date: Apr 16, 1978
Total Previews: 19
Total Performances: 21

Category: Musical, Revue, Original, Broadway
Description: A musical in two acts
Setting: A large movie palace with an upstage balcony

Opening Night Production Staff

Managing Director of ANTA: Alfred De Liagre, Jr.

Produced by Judith Gordon and Richard S. Bright; Associate Producer: Marc Howard and Sheila-Barbara-Dinah Productions

Originally produced by The Hartford Stage Company, Center Theatre Group / Mark Taper Forum (Gordon Davidson, Artistic Director) and Arena Stage (Zelda Fichandler: Artistic Director)

Music by Mel Marvin; Book by Christopher Durang; Lyrics by Christopher Durang; Music orchestrated by Robert M. Freedman; Musical Director: Clay Fullum

Directed by David Chambers; Musical Staging by Graciela Daniele

Scenic Design by Tony Straiges; Costume Design by Marjorie Slaiman; Lighting Design by William Mintzer; Sound Design by Lou Shapiro; Hair Design by Charles LoPresto; Make-Up Design by Charles LoPresto

General Manager: Dorothy Olim Associates, Inc.; Company Manager: Gail Bell

Production Stage Manager: Ron Abbott; Stage Manager: Gully Stanford

Pianist: Robert Fisher

General Press Representative: David Powers; Photographer: Martha Swope; Advertising: Matthew Serino & Associates; Dance Captain: Eric Weitz; Casting: Feuer & Ritzer

Opening Night Cast

Maureen AndermanContract player # 8
Gary BayerJimmy
Walter BobbieContract player # 1
Jeff BrooksContract player # 5
Bryan E. ClarkContract player # 7
David CromwellContract player # 4
David GarrisonContract player # 10
Ben Halley, Jr.Contract player # 3
Swoosie KurtzBette
Kate McGregor-StewartContract player # 6
Joan PapeEve
April ShawhanLoretta
Brent SpinerHank
Eric WeitzContract player # 9
Mary Catherine WrightContract player # 2

Understudies: Stephen James (Contract player # 1, Hank), Carolyn Mignini (Contract player # 2, Contract player # 8, Loretta) and Robert Polenz (Contract player # 10, Contract player # 5, Contract player # 9)

Awards and Nominations

Tony Award®

 1978 Best Book of a Musical [nominee] 

Book by Christopher Durang

Drama Desk Award

 1978 Outstanding Actor in a Musical [nominee] 

Gary Bayer

winner 1978 Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical [winner] 

Swoosie Kurtz


music by Mel Marvin; lyrics by Christopher Durang

ACT 1 Sung By
The Silent Years
Minstrel SongContract player # 10
Shanty Town RomanceJimmy and Loretta
They Can't Prohibit LoveBette
We're in a SaladHank, Salad Girls, Contract player # 10, Contract player # 9 and Contract player # 1
Ostende Nobis ToscaBette, Hank, Contract player # 10 and Contract player # 9
The Red, the White and the BlueEve and Company
ACT 2 Sung By
Pretty Pin-UpEve, Loretta, Bette and Contract player # 2
Apple Blossom VictoryBette, Eve and Contract player # 6
Isn't It Fun to Be in the MoviesContract player # 10 and Contract player # 9
Search for WisdomLoretta, Jimmy and Company


New York Daily News: "Parodying self-parodying films"

Can it be Hasty Pudding time already? As if bent on reaffirming the old show-biz saw that every time you leave New York you're in Bridgeport, "A History of the American Film," a musical play that has enjoyed wide attention in the regional theater during the past couple of years, arrived last night at the ANTA looking for all the world like a gussied-up varsity show with real actors.

The author of this misleadingly-named piece, Christopher Durang, is, on this and past evidence, more of a joiner or burlesquer than a genuine playwright, and his specialty is ribbing popular culture, a practice better left to stand-up comedians, Mel Brooks and others notwithstanding.

He is dealing here, in two witheringly stale acts, with a takeoff on Hollywood films of the '30s and '40s primarily, though an opening number is devoted to the silents, and in the final scene, an earthquake movie that shakes up the stage "customers" (I'll get to that later,) leaps into the near-present.

A feisty young criminal, "Jimmy," with a soft spot for "Loretta," a dumb blonde, play the leads and are supported by "Bette" (referred to as "Bet"), "Eve," "Hank" and several "Contract Players" in numerous roles derived from such films as "The Public Enemy," "The Grapes of Wrath," the "Golddiggers," "Citizen Kane," "Psycho" and others. As each episode concludes, "THE END" in huge letters descends, and each time it does so the beleagured Loretta tries to hide for good behind it.

The trouble with all this, in which inanity becomes an end in itself, is that it wastes the talents of some perfectly good actors (I was actually embarrassed for Maureen Anderman at times) on sight gags and broad jokes (one about burying grandma gratuitously lifted from "Tobacco Road") that might, at best, have accounted for a 10-minute revue sketch.

To find "Victor Henreid" lighting two cigarets simultaneously and offering one to Loretta, only to be told she doesn't smoke, is amusing, but it would have been more so in "New Faces of 1943," and just possibly was.

The evening's chief novelty consists in having the cast appear as a group of moviegoers in a basic setting (other sets drop into place inside it) modeled on an old-time movie palace with orchestra seats, two boxes, a balcony and a projection booth high rear. The device proves awkward at times, being most effective at the very start when, with a crackerjack pianist to one side, a "singalong" with dancing ball precedes the main features. The earthquake scene shakes the whole thing up.

Gary Bayer makes the most of Jimmy (and, briefly, of Humphrey and Marlon), and April Shawhan is suitably cast as Loretta. There are valiant efforts by Swoosie Kurtz as Bette, Joan Pape as Eve, Brent Spiner as Hank, Bryan Clark as Henreid, and some of the rest.

The exercise in juvenilia comes closest to genuine stage life with a song-and-dance duet, "Isn't It Fun to Be in the Movies," that allows the pit band to swing out to Graciela Daniele's zingy dance routine, but the number (all lyrics are Durang's, and the score is by Mel Marvin) somehow misses the mark.

David Chambers' apt direction, Tony Straiges' garish scenery, Marjorie Slaiman's vulgar costumes, William Mintzer's expert lighting and Clay Fullum's smart conducting do everything conceivable to abet the author's fell design.

On the whole, I preferred "Curley McDimple." Or Bridgeport.

New York Daily News

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