Moving with all due Goodspeed

NEW YORK — “It’s like pushing a medicine ball up the hill,” Michael P. Price says of the opening of “By Jeeves” on Broadway come Oct. 28. Price is lead producer of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Alan Ayckbourn musical, which he first produced five years ago at the Goodspeed Opera House, where Price is exec director.

The musical was off for 48 hours when two investors pulled out post-Sept. 11. More recently, a teabag-in-an-envelope promotion mailed to various legit insiders created a bit of anthrax anxiety.

“It’s never easy,” says Price, despite “By Jeeves” being his 15th Goodspeed show to go to Broadway.

But Price has more than “Jeeves” on his plate. Next fall, Goodspeed presents the world premiere of a new Walter Bobbie/Michael Pace/Rob Preston musical, “Road to Hollywood,” a takeoff on the Hope & Crosby movies. Before that, in the spring, comes a new show from Craig Carnelia and David H. Bell titled “Actor, Lawyer, Indian Chief,” about a TV cowboy. Both shows will be performed in Goodspeed’s smaller Terris Theater in Chester, Conn.

At the Opera House, the fare is well-tested and includes “Dames at Sea” and Rodgers & Hart’s “Babes in Arms,” with a reworked book by Joe DiPietro, who retooled last season’s “They All Laughed.”

Other revivals on tap are “The Baker’s Wife” (David Merrick closed it out of town in 1976) at the Chester theater and “King of Hearts” (short-lived on Broadway in 1978) skedded for the Opera House.

If all goes well, Goodspeed soon will have a second 800-seat house across from its Opera House in East Haddam. Price sees completion in 2004 at a cost of $30 million. “The cost seems to go up every day,” he says. No name yet for the new venue. “We’re looking for someone with a few million to put their name on it.”

Leguizamo tiptoes onto B’way

“You’re going to be in town for our opening on Nov. 4?” “Sexaholix” producer Robin Tate asks this Variety reporter. “Good. You can come on Nov. 3!”

With all good nature, Tate is only half-joking. John Leguizamo’s one-person Broadway show will take the highly unusual step of opening at a Sunday matinee sans celebs and reporters.

“It’s a nontraditional opening,” says the producer. “No interviews. Celebrities can come during the run. We don’t want an audience to sit there and not respond. This opening is very relaxed — just for family, staff, people who worked on the show, with an intimate dinner afterwards.”

Tate says a recent celeb-packed aud on opening night of “Sexaholix” in Los Angeles proved less responsive than other perfs there. “With a one-person show, it’s important that the audience join in,” he says. The show recently expanded its limited run to Dec. 9 at the Royale Theater. “Freak,” Leguizamo’s last Broadway production, ran six months during the 1998-99 season.

Childs wins Gilman grant

Kirsten Childs was awarded the Gilman & Gonzalez Theater Foundation’s $25,000 grant for 2001. Her well-received musical “Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin” didn’t make the commercial transfer after a successful run a year ago at Playwrights Horizons.

“A frustrating period,” the composer-lyricist-book writer recalls.

Now she’s doing the score for a performance piece based on the life of Ben Vereen, with “R&J” author Joe Calarco on the book.

In addition, novelist Walter Mosley is adapting his story “Hootchie Coo and the Mack” into a musical, with Childs writing a score that recalls the old days of Times Square, when strippers and hustlers ruled 42nd Street.

And for the Vineyard, Childs is turning back into a triple threat with a musical she describes as a “swashbuckling thriller” set in 17th-century Brazil. “After ‘Bubbly Black Girl’ I never thought I’d do music, lyrics and book again, but here I am,” she says.

One ‘Good’ reading deserves another …

The York Theater Co. follows up its mid-October concert perfs of “The Good Companions” with a private reading Oct. 23 at the York.

The musical by Andre Previn and Johnny Mercer premiered in London in 1968 but never made it to Gotham. York is looking to fully stage the show either Off Broadway with a commercial production or at a nonprofit theater. Susan H. Schulman directs, with Brian Murray and Mary Stout starring.

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