Tune to direct 'Turn' for 'Jersey Boys' team

The latest tuner from the book writers of “Jersey Boys,” the world preem of a play by Lynn Nottage and a new collaboration between helmer Robert Falls and thesp Brian Dennehy are all on deck for the 2008-09 season of Chicago’s Goodman Theater.

Tommy Tune directs “Turn of the Century,” the latest musical effort from “Jersey” scribes Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, which premieres at the Goodman in September. Described as a “trip through the American songbook,” tuner is a romantic comedy about a singer and a piano player who time-travel back a century to gain stardom with their advanced knowledge of soon-to-be American standards.

Rights negotiations for specific titles continue. “We’re choosing liberally from the century’s greatest songs,” Elice told Daily Variety. “There won’t be any bad songs.”

Project had its origins in a screenplay that Brickman wrote, and he and Elice began working on it for the stage during the pre-Broadway phase of “Jersey Boys” at the La Jolla Playhouse. The world premiere musical was one of several high-profile projects announced as part of the 2008-09 season at the Goodman.

In 2009, Falls will reteam with Dennehy on Eugene O’Neill’s tragedy “Desire Under the Elms.” Prior Falls-Dennehy collaborations include acclaimed productions of “Death of a Salesman” and O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” both of which began at the Goodman and went on to successful Broadway runs. Falls also has directed Dennehy in O’Neill plays “The Iceman Cometh,” “A Touch of the Poet” and “Hughie.”

“Desire Under the Elms” will be part of a larger O’Neill festival that will include a mix of productions, likely three to five of them, demonstrating a range of approaches to O’Neill, and probably including at least one European company.

Falls says his own production will be a stripped-down version of the relatively rarely produced play about a New England farmer whose wife falls for her stepson. “You may not even see elm trees,” he told Daily Variety.

In late 2008, the Goodman will premiere “Ruined,” the newest play from MacArthur Fellowship recipient Nottage (“Crumbs From the Table of Joy,” “Intimate Apparel”). Play, which the Goodman commissioned and workshopped, centers on a businesswoman in the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo.

Director Kate Whoriskey has been attached to the project since traveling to Africa with Nottage. The original intention was to do a modern adaptation of Brecht’s “Mother Courage,” but the plan morphed into this original work, which also will be staged at the Manhattan Theater Club in 2009.

Also in September, the Goodman will co-produce the Silk Road Theater Project’s preem of Philip Kan Gotanda’s play “Yohen,” directed by Steve Scott. Silk Road has been gaining stature in Chicago with a focus on new work from scribes of Asian and Middle Eastern descent.

The announcement of “Turn of the Century” means the Goodman will stage two potentially Broadway-bound musicals in the span of a few months. Theater’s current season will end with the June launch of “The Boys Are Coming Home,” a tuner set in the post-WWII era, with music and lyrics by Leslie Arden and book by Rebecca Gilman. Falls recently took over helming duties on the show from the previously announced David Petrarca.

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