NEW YORK — Here’s a strange pairing: the author of “Annie” and the mind behind Spy magazine.
But, yes, Martin Charnin and Kurt Andersen have just put the finishing touches on their new musical “Broomhilda,” based on the long-running cartoon strip.
The two scribes are unlikely collaborators, and have aptly diverging description of their musical baby.
“It’s ‘Brigadoon’ for the 21st century,” says Charnin, the veteran lyricist-director.
“It’s ‘Men in Black’ meets ‘Harry Potter,’ ” says Andersen, who makes his book-writer debut with the project. Considering the edgy sensibility that he brought to Spy, New York magazine and the novel “Turn of the Century,” Andersen is the first to admit surprise at his sudden interest in the musical-comedy form.
“It was never a burning ambition,” he says. Back-to-back exposure to “Urinetown” and “Hairspray,” however, led to a legit epiphany. “Man, if musical comedy can have this kind of modern sensibility…. Now I rush off to every musical that opens to look at it with new eyes,” Andersen says.
As for “Broomhilda” being “Brigadoon,” Andersen describes his witch story a tad more intriguingly. “It’s as if Walt Disney and the Bush administration controlled the world, and Broomhilda and her magical creatures are about to be squeezed out of existence. This is the final battle,” he concludes.
Composer on “Broomhilda” is the late Leroy Anderson. Charnin secured the rights to such instrumental classics as Anderson’s “Blue Tango,” “Syncopated Clock” and “The Belle of the Ball,” and has given them original lyrics.
“And left Anderson’s music absolutely intact,” he insists.
Which makes the “Broomhilda” exercise unlike what “Mamma Mia” did to Abba or how “Kismet” riffed on Borodin.
While “Broomhilda” awaits its first reading, Charnin recently secured a berth for one of his other musical projects. “Robin Hood” opens this November outside Seattle at the Village Theater, the Goodspeed of the Pacific Northwest.
Peter Sipos, Celine Dion‘s fave composer, has written the music. Thomas Meehan delivers a middle-aged Robin and Marian, whose love child carries the show.
The ubiquitous book writer attended the “Bombay Dreams” press day last week, but graciously talked up his other projects as well.
Meehan revealed that the first act of Mel Brooks‘ “Young Frankenstein” musical is finished, with a rough draft in place for the first two scenes of the second act.
“It has been more difficult than ‘The Producers,’ ” says Meehan. “It’s harder to locate where the songs go, unlike ‘The Producers,’ which was set in the theater world.” Completion date: fall 2004.
He and Brooks are also at work on “The Producers” screenplay, which will incorporate material taken from the 1968 movie but cut at the last moment from the stage show. Example: the Lincoln Center fountain scene.
“Remember the fountains in the Broadway production?” says Meehan, referring to the “We Can Do It” reprise in act one. “Those fountains were a $50,000 inside joke.”
What’s new at the ‘Zoo’
Overheard at the “Fiddler on the Roof” preem:
“Brilliant. Not what you’d expect. Very contemporary.”
A noted actress was referring not to the show at hand but rather Edward Albee‘s new play, “Homelife,” ready for its May 28 preem at Hartford Stage.
If Arthur Miller can go back to Marilyn Monroe and the 1950s with “Finishing the Picture,” then Albee can return to his first great score, too.
“Homelife” is the prequel to the playwright’s 1959 two-hander “The Zoo Story,” but rather than give us the backstory on the volatile Jerry, Albee focuses here on the enigmatic Peter.
Pam MacKinnon directs the world premiere. She helmed the Euro debut of “Three Tall Women,” at Vienna’s English Theater, and the regional debut of “The Play About the Baby,” at Houston’s Alley Theater.
In “Homelife,” Peter and his wife, Ann, are at home in the early afternoon before he goes to the park that fateful day. Peter is already absorbed in the book he reads at the top of “The Zoo Story.”
According to MacKinnon, the couple “initiate a conversation from a place of feeling almost too comfortable in their marriage. It explores themes of how tricky a long-term relationship can be.”
In London, Albee’s “The Goat” transfers from the Almeida to the West End, starring Jonathan Pryce. According to the show’s Broadway producer Elizabeth I. McCann, Pryce will also be headlining a 2004-05 Broadway revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
The actor’s George certainly dazzled Broadway and L.A. auds when he performed benefit perfs of the play with Uta Hagen during the 1999-2000 season.
Everyone from Jessica Lange to Mercedes Ruehl has been mentioned to play Martha. On that score, McCann wasn’t talking.