When Will ‘Fellow Travelers’ Make It to Broadway?

Fellow Travelers, Jack Canfora’s new play about Marilyn, Arthur and Elia Kazan, was critically acclaimed when it opened in the Hamptons this June (see here.) The producers are now hoping for a Broadway run – but as Michael Reidel reports for the New York Post, without a star attached it’s going to be an uphill journey.

“This issue is bedeviling a compelling new play that, if it could get a Broadway theater, would be a strong contender to win the Tony next year. Jack Canfora’s Fellow Travelers — about the real-life combustible triangle of Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan and Marilyn Monroe during the McCarthy era — opened in June to rave reviews at Sag Harbor’s Bay Street Theater.

Local critics called director Michael Wilson’s production ‘phenomenal,’ ‘sharp,’ ‘witty’ and ‘gripping.’ New York’s major papers, alas, didn’t review the show. Had their reviews been good, the play would have stood a much greater chance of getting to Broadway.

Somebody slipped me a copy of the play, and it’s terrific. Fellow Travelers takes a few liberties here and there with the facts, but it digs deep into the complicated friendship — and falling out — between Kazan and Miller.

And it spices things up by adding Monroe to the stew. In his biography Arthur Miller, Martin Gottfried suggests that Kazan threw Monroe in Miller’s way, knowing that she would upend the playwright’s life.

Gripping as it is, Fellow Travelers has yet to find its way onto Broadway. ‘We don’t have a star,’ a production source says. Celeb duos are being floated — Andrew Garfield and Jake Gyllenhaal and Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy among them. If they read the script, they would leap at the chance to play such juicy characters.

Until then, Fellow Travelers languishes on Broadway’s waitlist. That’s a pity.”

Sugar Heads Back to Broadway

A new Broadway musical based on Some Like It Hot is in the works, Playbill reports.

“A new musical adaptation of the film classic Some Like It Hot is in the works, with a Broadway premiere slated for 2020. The project hails from the Shubert Organization and Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the team behind NBC’s roster of live musicals.

The show will feature a score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, plus a book by playwright Matthew Lopez. Casey Nicholaw will direct and choreograph.

Shaiman and Wittman are no strangers to the Marilyn Monroe canon, having previously penned songs for Bombshell, the fictional Monroe bio-musical in the NBC series Smash. A real-life stage presentation of Bombshell, produced by Zadan and Meron, is long-gestating

The 1959 Billy Wilder comedy was previously adapted for the stage with Jule Styne, Bob Merrill, and Peter Stone’s Sugar, which opened on Broadway in 1972, going on to earn four Tony nominations and play over 500 performances.”


When Sugar Came to Broadway

Elaine Joyce (Sugar) with ‘Josephine’ (Tony Roberts) and ‘Daphne’ (Robert Morse)

Ron Fassler, author of Up in the Cheap Seats: A Historical Memoir of Broadway, has written an article, ‘A Sprinkling of Sugar‘, about the musical theatre adaptation of Some Like It Hot. Written by Peter Stone, with music by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes composer Jule Styne and lyrics by Bob Merrill, Sugar was first produced at the Majestic Theatre on West 44th St, NYC, running for 505 performances from 1972-73, and has since become a firm favourite in regional theatre and with amateur dramatics societies everywhere.

Elaine Joyce as ‘Sugar’, with Tony Roberts as Joe

“David Merrick, a producer with an enviable track record, as well as a talent for alienating close to everyone he ever came in contact with, was the man behind figuring out a way to bring a musical version of Some Like It Hot to the Broadway stage — and it wasn’t easy …

Merrick optioned Fanfaren de Liebe, the German screenplay upon which Wilder and Diamond based Some Like It Hot. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t allow for Merrick to set the show in the Roaring Twenties, perfect for a musical, as that was an idea of Wilder and Diamond’s … But with Merrick not being the type to give up without a fight, he eventually nabbed the rights from United Artists to use Wilder and Diamond’s screenplay as the source for his musical.

When Sugar opened on Broadway forty-six years ago tonight at the Majestic Theatre, it featured a relative unknown, Elaine Joyce in the title part, the one first created by Marilyn Monroe in the film … Yet the show remained a bit of a disappointment creatively, even though it did good business.

As a teenager, I saw Sugar early in its run, and though intermittently entertaining on its own merits, the show was really all about the comedic skills, dazzling energy and one-of-a-kind charisma of Robert Morse. As Jerry and his female alter-ego, Daphne, Morse was the real deal.

Sugar’s impromptu pyjama party with Daphne (Robert Morse)

With Some Like It Hot’s status as a film classic not only undiminished over the years, but continuing to grow, there have been numerous attempts to revive Sugar’s fortunes, in hopes of it maybe one day finding its way back to Broadway. One was a 1992 London version with British favorite Tommy Steele, and another was a U.S. touring production in 2002 with Tony Curtis, this time in the Joe E. Brown role of Osgood, the randy millionaire.

Of course, both productions took on a new title: Some Like It Hot.”

Thanks to Jackie at Marilyn Remembered

NBC Confirms Plans to Bring ‘Smash’ to Broadway

Katharine McPhee onstage in ‘Bombshell’, 2015

Plans to remake NBC’s Smash – the 2012 TV drama whose first season focused on the making of Bombshell, a fictitious stage musical about Marilyn – as a Broadway show were announced following a one-off performance of Bombshell back in 2015. Since then there have been occasional updates on the project, such as a Hollywood Reporter article from last year. And as NBC’s Robert Greenblatt confirms in the latest episode of Variety’s podcast, Stagecraft, those plans are still in the works – although it now appears that Bombshell will be re-incorporated into Smash, rather than as a stand-alone musical.

“Superfans and hate-watchers, take note: You may not have seen the last of Smash.

So says Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment … The 2012 series about New York theater people was a polarizing phenomenon among real-life New York theater people — ‘Smash may have invented the concept of hate-watching,’ Greenblatt jokes — but it’s still got a following. ‘Interestingly enough, I hear more about people loving Smash now than I ever did when it was on the air.’

Which is one of the reasons Greenblatt and the show’s team of creators and producers are exploring a future life for Smash beyond the Actors Fund concert staging of the original songs Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman wrote for Bombshell, the Broadway-show-within-the-show. “We’ve been thinking about different ways to think about a stage musical based on Bombshell or Smash,’ Greenblatt reveals. ‘That’s all I’ll say. There’s an incarnation which could sort of combine both. … You may not have seen the last of Smash yet. I think the next incarnation will be on stage.'”

Marilyn, Arthur and ‘The Crucible’

Veteran off-Broadway producer Paul Libin shared his theatrical memories with the New York Times recently, including an anecdote about the day he met Arthur Miller – with his then-wife, Marilyn Monroe.

“Arthur Miller, more than anyone else, kept emerging in the table talk, almost Zelig-like. For starters, seeing a 1950 production of Miller’s Death of a Salesman back home in Chicago convinced a 19-year-old Paul Libin to pursue an acting career. This was not an ambition destined for fulfillment. He came to New York and, in 1953, auditioned for a part in Wish You Were Here, a Joshua Logan musical comedy. He did fine with his spoken lines.

‘And then,’ Mr. Libin said, ‘I had to sing. I heard Josh Logan say: Next! And that was it.’

Four years later, he decided that producing was for him, and he aimed high. His first play was The Crucible. Arthur Miller again.

‘What a producer is, at least in my mind, is putting the parts together and making it work with what you have,’ Mr. Libin said. But first you need those parts. For The Crucible, he did not even have a theater. He had to build one. But where?

On his way to the dentist one day, he passed the old Martinique Hotel, at Broadway and 32nd Street.

‘I saw a sign that said a ballroom was available,’ he recalled. ‘I talked to the manager of the hotel, a Mr. Foreman. A really tough character. Used to carry a snub-nosed .38.’ He explained his idea, and Mr. Foreman was unenthusiastic. Nonetheless, Mr. Libin phoned Miller’s agent and said, ‘We have the theater.’

‘Actually, we didn’t have anything,’ he said at lunch, his voice turning almost conspiratorial. ‘That’s what a producer has to do: be very positive about circumstances.’

Miller wanted to see for himself if the ballroom could be converted into a theater. He showed up at the Martinique with his wife. You may have heard of her: Marilyn Monroe.

In walked the hotel manager, who somehow failed to notice Monroe. He focused his attention on Miller and Mr. Libin.

‘I said, I’d like you to meet his wife,’ Mr. Libin said. ‘When the guy turned, I thought he was going to melt right there. He could hardly speak.’ By the time the young producer made it back by subway to the Upper West Side, where he worked, Mr. Foreman had left a message for him: ‘When are we going to sit down and make the deal?'”

Marilyn on Broadway

Marilyn at a Broadway premiere, 1956

The Bowery Boys blog takes a look at Monroe movies with a Broadway connection – including All About Eve, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Seven Year Itch and Bus Stop. Her most succesful film, Some Like it Hot, was later adapted for Broadway.

I would add to that list Clash by Night (based on a play by Clifford Odets), and The Prince and the Showgirl (based on a London theatrical hit by Terence Rattigan.)

Because Marilyn played a showgirl so often, you could also count There’s No Business Like Show Business and Let’s Make Love. And her last film, The Misfits, was the first screenplay by playwright husband Arthur Miller.

Megan Hilty to Star in ‘Smash’

Megan Hilty

Megan Hilty, who has starred in hit Broadway musicals such as Nine to Five and Wicked, will appear in the pilot episode of a new TV show, Smash.

Following in the footsteps of Glee, Smash is a comic take on the theatre world.  Based on an idea by Stephen Spielberg, the series will feature original songs.

In the pilot, Hilty will play an actress preparing to star as Marilyn Monroe in a Broadway musical. Unfortunately, Hilty’s character is deemed too old for the role, and is relegated to the chorus.

Debra Messing (Will and Grace) will play the show’s lyricist, Julia, while the actor playing the composer, Tom, has not yet been confirmed. The pilot was written by Theresa Rebeck and will be directed by Michael Mayer.