Day by day, closer to opening Journal: 'Triumph's' writer tracks the ups and downs and ins and outs of readying a show for the big-time.

October 12, 1997|By J. Wynn Rousuck

"Triumph of Love," an 18th-century French play written by Marivaux and translated by James Magruder, was produced at Center Stage in 1993, then brought back last year as a musical. It's now in previews at Broadway's Royale Theatre, for an Oct. 23 opening night.

The musical is set in ancient Greece, where Princess Leonide falls in love with a young man named Agis, who's being raised by his philosopher uncle and aunt. Disguised as a man, Leonide insinuates herself into Agis' unwelcoming household, hoping to win his heart.

Magruder, author of the musical's book, is the resident dramaturg at Center Stage. A newcomer to Broadway, he is documenting his debut in a journal, which The Sun is excerpting. This is the third installment of the journal, which he calls, "If It Ain't Broke, You're Not Looking Hard Enough."

Sept. 17

Flopped out on the sofa in the men's lounge in the basement of the Royale. First day of technical rehearsals [when the designers work with the cast to fine-tune the physical production on stage]. They're about halfway through the opening number. Before coming in, I saw six people on line at our box office, one at "Scarlet Pimpernel," zero at "Side Show."

(Rush to judgment department: Margo Lion hates "State Fair" written on the princess' [hot-air] balloon [in which she makes her entrance] -- the wrong kind of camp.)

They've just gotten to Hermocrates' first entrance. A cheer has gone up. Either it's terrific or Murray has entered naked.

Sept. 19

Day 3 of "Triumph of Love": The Tech. We're only up through "Mr. Right" (No. 4 out of 16 songs). Glacially slow pace. Paul Gallo [lighting designer] and his computerized light board builds cues very slowly.

Roger Bart passed some kidney stones this morning. Ouch. I can only think of Montaigne's brilliant essay about them -- no help to Roger. So Tom Plotkin [understudy] is filling in for Harlequin. There are five tables set up over the orchestra. Makes me think of those old photos of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Agnes DeMille and Josh Logan sitting out in the orchestra watching the proceedings. They never looked terrified.

Koz [Michael Kosarin, music supervisor] still worrying about the top of Act 2. Susan Birkenhead's lyrics, my lead-in, the choreography. Doesn't matter -- we won't reach Act 2 until November at the rate we're going.

They finally got Elayne Boosler's name off the marquee with what looks like a huge piece of green Scotch tape. [Boosler, originally cast as the servant Corine, dropped out in August.] Looks ridiculous. They finally put up a poster of Susan Egan/Chris Sieber in their tackle pose. Sex sells. When will they graphically address the question: Who wrote this show?

Although I must admit my work sounds ghastly for the moment, '' all of my lines landing like dirt clods in the empty orchestra for bored and distracted techies. Margo Lion picking on such innocuous items as "college boy" -- I said go pick on somebody else.

Sept. 20

Patrick Brady [music director] said the orchestra rehearsal was successful. Margo Lion and Susan Birkenhead calm, or rather calm before the storm, when nothing works in previews. They seem ghoulishly gleeful that everything will fall apart in front of an audience. I can't believe that will happen -- or I'm protecting myself with the power of denial until it happens. Something must be up, because my face is breaking out like it hasn't since I was in college.

Sept. 22

Weather gorgeous up at Yale. I'm teaching translation and adaptation in the Drama School to the dramaturgs and playwrights, which is what got me into "Triumph of Love" in the first place 11 years ago. Class went well. I was able during the train ride back to New York to be staggered anew by the fact of being on Broadway, working with stars, hanging out in the

orchestra with very talented people, cracking wise and eating fat-laden snacks to stave off boredom with the pace of the light cues.

Hearing Betty Buckley sing "Serenity" last night and execute her lead-in scene with an over-the-top brilliance gave me such a glimmer or glimpse into a Great Life ahead that I came home and called her for making me feel better about the universe. Get a grip, Jim. Perspective.

I did miss the Sitzprob [first time cast works with orchestra], though. Everyone psyched about the orchestrations. Margo now obsessing about the State Fair balloon, Murray's throne, Chris Sieber's makeup, Kevin Chamberlin's wig and Nancy Opel's orange top hat. She also hates my work in the opening scene between the Princess and Corine. Yeah, no kidding. Exposition always stinks.

Sept. 24

I'm in the doghouse. I was sent as a spy to see "Side Show" last night. I didn't hate it and I said so. You cannot compare our two shows in any way. It isn't the difference between apples and oranges; it's the difference between a fish and a bicycle.

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