‘Casablanca’ Heads West End Hopefuls

“Everybody Comes To Rick’s,” the unproduced play on which the movie “Casablanca” was based, finally is coming to the stage, but in a revised form and under the film’s title to capitalize on the screen classic’s enduring appeal.

No theater is booked as yet, but the world premiere production hopes to reach the West End in April after a one-stop road tryout for co-producers Paul Elliott, Greg Smith and Intl. Artists. If the show clicks, a Broadway clone may follow.

“Casablanca” the play, now in rehearsal, is one of a batch of hopeful shows either preparing for liftoff or already on the road circling London, apparently unfazed by the recession and terrorism scares that have led to a boxoffice dropoff for commercial West End legit.

Among the hopefuls are N.Y. originations such as “Mack & Mabel,” “Nine” and “70 Girls 70.” Also, the international cult hit “Tango Argentino” (probably in May), a new comedy called “Don’t Dress For Dinner” (possibly late March), “Plan Nine From Outer Space” (spoof musical) and the usual quota of revivals, including “Guys And Dolls,” Harold Pinter’s “The Caretaker” and Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Blood Wedding.”

Other possibles include another American import, Tina Howe’s “Painting Churches” (which has been touring with Rosemary Harris and Julie Covington), a musical of Jules Verne’s “Around The World In 80 Days” (not adapted from the film) and a comedy, “A Slight Hangover.”

Of the shows firm for London, the first to arrive will be William Nicholson’s “Map Of The Heart,” opening March 7 at the Globe, and Barbara Lebow’s “A Shayna Maidel,” due March 19 at the Ambassadors. Also, the London premiere of “Carmen Jones,” slated for April 8 at the Old Vic.

Certain to command widest interest is “Casablanca.” The original three-act script by Murray Burnett and Joan Allison has been revised by Burnett (now well into his 80s) as a two-act work that incorporates elements of the film. Rights to the original were snapped up by Warner Bros, before it was spoken for by a legit management, preempting a possible Broadway run.

The 1942 movie was scripted by Howard W. Koch, produced by Hal B. Wallis and directed by Michael Curtiz.

There have been at least two prior legit productions in the U.S., but both were based on the screenplay, not the original play script. The Brit producers acquired the property from Warners under a deal that also gives them rights to stage it in the U.S. and Australia.

The looming London edition, with a 21-member cast, is capitalized at £250,000 (close to $500,000), and will topcast American actress Shelley Thompson and Britisher Leslie Grantham.

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