Musical revues to anchor 1992-'93 Mechanic season

April 29, 1992|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,Theater Critic

Three musical revues -- the 1991 Tony Award-winning "The Will Rogers Follies," "And the World Goes 'Round" and "Forever Plaid" -- will form the cornerstone of the 1992-1993 season at the Morris A. Mechanic Theatre.

The season, which could be described as a year in revue, will also include Tom Dulack's off-Broadway comedy "Breaking Legs," the only non-musical in the lineup so far, although three more shows have yet to be announced.

Referring to the four offerings as "feel-gooders," Hope Quackenbush, managing director of the Mechanic, said yesterday, "I'm coming to the conclusion it's really not wrong to escape once in a while and have a good time. . . . I think we could all use that."

Ms. Quackenbush added that she is negotiating for two other shows, which she expects to announce in a few weeks. She is leaving an additional slot open and will not have dates confirmed for the four announced shows until more of the season is finalized.

The three upcoming revues vary widely in scale and subject matter. "Will Rogers," winner of six Tony Awards, combines a biography of the late humorist with the extravagant format of the Ziegfeld Follies, in which Rogers was a headliner. Slated for the spring -- and the only one of the four to be presented at the Lyric Opera House -- the production is expected to star Keith Carradine, re-creating his original Broadway role. Direction and choreography are by Tommy Tune, music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and book by Peter Stone.

At the opposite extreme in terms of scale, "Forever Plaid," which will open the season, is a four-man comic salute to the male pop groups of the 1950s and 1960s. The smooth-crooning Four Plaids will be played by David Engel, Guy Stroman, Stan Chandler and Larry Raben, all veterans of the off-Broadway production. Written and directed by Stuart Ross, with musical direction by James Raitt, "Forever Plaid" has attracted a cult following that includes President and Mrs. Bush, who have seen the show repeatedly.

"And the World Goes 'Round," the award-winning third revue, celebrates the music of John Kander and Fred Ebb, who have been called "the most distinguished composer-lyricist team still working in the American theater." Five performers, who have not yet been cast, will present 30 songs from such Kander-and-Ebb stage shows as "Cabaret," "Zorba" and "Woman of the Year," as well as the movies "New York, New York" and "Funny Lady."

"Breaking Legs," a comedy about a playwright who tries to interest gangsters in producing his play, will feature three of its original off-Broadway stars -- Philip Bosco, Vincent Gardenia and Larry Storch, all of whom have previously appeared at the Mechanic -- as well as Karen Valentine. Direction is by John Tillinger.

At this point, the 1992-1993 season doesn't include a pre-Broadway show, but Ms. Quackenbush said, "I am looking at one. We've got a space set aside for one." However, she explained, with more and more shows changing their Broadway openings to the spring, it has become increasingly difficult to begin the season with a tryout -- the Mechanic's traditional pre-Broadway slot. "Tryouts are serendipitous as far as I'm concerned," she said.

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