EXCLUSIVE: On a clear day, you can see Times Square: Tony-winning The Producers director-choreographer Susan Stroman and writer John Lahr (Elaine Stritch: At Liberty) are developing a new musical that weaves strands from the bigger-than-life times and shows of Broadway and Hollywood lyricist Alan Jay Lerner (My Fair Lady, Gigi, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever).
The Late Great Me: An Evening With Alan Jay Lerner will be workshopped in late March and early April, under the wing of longtime producers Julian Schlossberg and Roy Furman, and Liza Lerner, who tells Deadline that the show about her father will mark the 2018 centennial of his birth. (Lerner, the creative partner of composer Frederick Loewe and, later, Burton Lane, died in 1986.) A reading in September set the project in motion.
Lahr, a New Yorker magazine critic and profile author (see his revelatory piece on Viola Davis in the magazine’s current issue), was approached by Schlossberg after Liza Lerner initiated the project because, she told Deadline, “no one has ever done a show about him.” Lerner was looking, she said, for something that would be neither a conventional book musical nor a revue but “a sophisticated show that would be compelling and fun.”
Schlossberg got to know Lahr while producing the Woody Allen musical Bullets Over Broadway, which Stroman directed and which had occasioned Lahr’s New Yorker profile of the director. Lahr’s writing career had taken off with Notes On A Cowardly Lion, his intimate biography of his father, Bert Lahr; his most recent biography is Mad Pilgrimage Of The Flesh, about Tennessee Williams (which Deadline excerpted here).
“I called John in London,” Schlossberg told Deadline, “because he’d spent a wonderful time with us on Bullets Over Broadway.”
With Lerner and Loewe serving as narrators, the show features 10 actors playing various roles in shows ranging from Brigadoon and Paint Your Wagon to such classics as My Fair Lady and Camelot. In addition to On A Clear Day, Lerner also collaborated with Lane on the unsung 1979 musical Carmelina, an adaptation of the Gina Lolliobrigida vehicle Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell that produced a lovely score, if not a hit show.
“You do come to understand the change that took place during that period we grew up in, the ’50s and ’60 — from Broadway to rock ‘n’ roll,” Schlossberg said.
“We have a workshop from March 23 to April 7 in New York, and we will see what we have,” he added. “We have not pulled the trigger, but Liza and I have beyond great expectations for the show.”