The Goodspeed Opera House knows who’s in its season-opening revival of the 1927 hijinks-in-college musical Good News!, which plays at the theater April 12 through June 22. This is the Goodspeed’s 50th anniversary season.
There’s other good news to impart about the show as well. It’s being rewritten—again. The original show, a massive hit which ran for over 500 performances in the late 1920s, was typical of musicals of its time, with a rudimentary book that wouldn’t hold up to the standards that were already being challenged in its time by such cleanly scripted, story-strong efforts as Showboat.
When producer Harry Rigby, known for his late 20th century revivals of Flapper and Depression-era shows such as Irene and No, No, Nanette, decided to revive Good News!, he made three big decisions: he cast it with nostalgia-friendly old-time film stars; he added several hit tunes that were not previously in the show but which emanated from the same songwriting team of B.G. DeSylva and Lew Brown; and he had the script rewritten. The adapter was none other than Garry Marshall, the noted film director and creator of TV’s Happy Days (which was developed as a stage musical at Goodspeed Opera House in 2007).
That Good News! revival didn’t fare as well as the original (which ran for 16 regular performances on Broadway, after a year on tour), but its script and songs amendments have generally stayed put.
The Goodspeed is keeping those extra songs—“Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” and “You’re the Cream in My Coffee” among them—but has turned the script over to Jeremy Desmon, a really interesting choice to punch up this “Go team!” material.
Desmon’s had two of his own shows developed at Goodspeed: The Girl in the Frame, which was produced at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in 2005 and his adaptation of the Allan Moyle film Pump Up the Volume, which had a private workshop at the theater a couple of years ago.
Directing Good News! Is Vince Pesce, who’s been busy at the theater lately, having done Mame and Something’s Afoot. Pesce’s worked as a choreographer on Broadway, in such high-stepping shows as Anything Goes and The Pajama Game. Court Watson is designing the sets (he did the period piece Meet John Doe at the Norma Terris Theatre), costumes are by Tracy Christensen (Something’s Afoot and City of Angels at Goodspeed, a slew of Associate Costume Designer credits on Broadway), lighting is by Charlie Morrison (Mame) and sound design is by Goodspeed mainstay Jay Hilton. Music director is of course Michael O’Flaherty, who’s been at the Goodspeed for decades, assisted by William J. Thomas. Orchestrations are by Dan DeLange.
OK, so now the cast. The characters seem to be essentially the same as in the 1927 original. Tom Marlowe, the football hero who can’t keep his mind on his studies, will be played by Ross Lekites. The apple of Tom’s eye, Connie Lane, is played by Chelsea Morgan Stock (who was at Goodspeed in Annie Get Your Gun and on Broadway in Baby, It’s You, Sister Act and The Little Mermaid). Team trainer Pooch Kearney is Max Perlman (Kiss Me, Kate and Jekyll & Hyde on Broadway).
There’s a love-triangle subplot to the show, among Babe O’Day (Tessa Fay), Beef Saunders (Myles J. McHale) and Bobby Randall (Barry Shafrin).
The role of Professor Kenyon, who in the original version is the teacher who gives Tom a passing grade in astronomy so that he’ll be allowed to play in the big football game, is played this time by a woman, Beth Glover (of the Goodspeed’s High Button Shoes and Red, Hot & Blue). Coach Bill Johnson is Mark Zimmerman (from Goodspeed’s musical version of Paper Moon and Broadway productions of West Side Story, Brigadoon, Shenandoah, A Catered Affair and The Rainmaker).
In the ensemble: Juliane Godfrey (who just appeared in The Great American Mousical at Goodspeed), Graham Kenn, Kate Marilley (who has three Goodspeed credits: Li’l Abner, Half a Sixpence and Amazing Grace), Drew Nellessen, Andrew Roubal, John Sacchetti (who was at Goodspeed previously in 42nd Street and How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying), Lauren Sprague, Vaden Thurgood, Jessi Trauth and Zurin Villanueva. Jessica Jaros and Lucas Thompson are the alternate (swing) performers.
Tickets and more info at (860) 873-8668 or http://goodspeed.org/