The Goodspeed 2015 Season: Bromance Is In the Air

Don Stephenson (right, with Lewis Stadlen in the Broadway production of The Producers) will direct Guys & Dolls, a musical co-written by Stephenson’s wife’s father, next year at the Godspeed Opera House.

As it winds down its current season with the simultaneous runs of Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn and the new musical Circus in Winter, and as it begins to transition from the longtime leadership of Michael Price (who retires this year after 45 years at the theater), Godspeed Musicals has announced its 2015 mainstage Godspeed Opera House season. (Most of the major regional theaters in the state run on an academic year, fall-to-spring schedule, but those that grew up as summer theaters, like the Godspeed and Westport Country Playhouse, do the spring-to-winter thing instead.)

All three shows—The Honeymooners (April 10-June 20), La Cage Aux Folles (June 26-September 6) and Guys and Dolls (Sept. 18 to Nov. 29)—have a classic urban bromance theme to them. They are all, in their own ways, about friendships and how their differ from spousal commitments.

Goodspeed Musicals usually premieres brand-new musicals at its smaller Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, but often makes exceptions for shows that are traditional in form (Holiday Inn) or design-heavy (Houdini) or are likely to be big commercial draws. A musical version of The Honeymooners opens the season April 10 through June 20. The book is by Dusty Kay (former supervising producer of TV’s Roseanne, Lois & Clark and creator of Once a Hero) and TV producer Bill Nuss (who was a protege of the great Stephen J. Cannell and who’s done NCIS, Pacific Blue and the new Hawaii Five-O on his own), the songs are by Stephen Weiner (music) and Peter Mills (lyrics), who prevously worked together on the Off-Broadway musical Iron Curtain. John Rando, who’s knack for city-set musicals stretches from On the Town to Urinetown, directs. This isn’t the Godspeed’s first foray into ‘50s-themed TV series adaptations. Happy Days—The Musical, however was only set in the ‘50s. The Honeymoons was actually created then, a major hit of the Golden Age of Television. Like a lot of sitcoms of its time, Honeymooners episodes had more in common with stage plays than with film or radio—few scene changes, no big special effects,

The Honeymooners musical was originally announced as a Sept. 13 production at the Old Globe in San Diego, starring Michael McGrath, but was postponed, reportedly due to scheduling difficulties. Frank Rizzo of the Hartford Courant reported nearly a month ago that there would be a two-week workshop of The Honeymooners in November, with a frankly awesome cast: McGrath as Ralph Kramden, Hank Azaria as Ed Norton, Leslie Kritzer (Legally Blonde,  as Alice Kramden and Megan Hilty (Encores’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, the Smash musical Bombshell) as Trixie Norton. That doesn’t mean Goodspeed will get that same line-up, but it’d be surprising if McGrath didn’t star—he clearly owns the Ralph role already, and is a Goodspeed veteran to boot, having co-starred in They All Laughed (an early version of the eventual Broadway hit Nice Work If You Can Get It, for which McGrath won a Tony).

This is Executive Director’s Michael Price’s final season, the end of a three-and-a-half decade run, and it’s notable that he hasn’t gone all nostalgic with his swansong-and-dance selections. Goodspeed’s never done Guys and Dolls before, and in terms of the Gershwin/Berlin  golden age of the musical theater artform that the Goodspeed often extols, this 1950 show—based on the short stories of New York City journalist Damon Runyon, as improved upon by Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling, Abe Burrows and its original director George S. Kaufman—is practically modern-day. Don Stephenson, the well-established actor/director who happens to be married to Frank Loesser’s daughter Emily, will direct the Goodspeed production.

La Cage Aux Folles is another latter-day musical theater classic that takes its cues from classic Broadway musical stylings. Based on the Jean Poiret play and 1978 French indie comedy film of the same name (remade as The Birdcage by Mike Nichols in 1996, 13 years after it had already been made into this musical), La Cage Aux Folles’ drag-bar plot was punched up by the intuitively theatrical Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Herman. Rob Ruggiero—now a familiar Goodspeed presence from his stagings of Fiddler on the Roof, Carousel, Showboat, Camelot and 1776, directs this one.

The Godspeed has yet to announce which shows it might present at its Norma Terris Theater in Chester, where Circus in Winter is right now.

Season subscriptions for this Guys & Folles threesome are on sale now; three shows for $81-$222. Single tickets to the individual shows won’t go on sale until mid-February. Call (860) 873-8668 or go here.