Modern ‘Maude’ inspires revival

Classic cult film finds new life on B'way stage

NEW YORK — At Paper Mill Playhouse’s opening night of “Harold and Maude: The Musical,” book writer-lyricist Tom Jones (“The Fantasticks”) said the project began when he saw his friend Marge Champion sitting in the audience at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

“I thought, ‘Ding! She’s like Maude!'” Jones recalled, at the restaurant Martini in Milburn, N.J. “She’s a creative sprit. She’s a life force who’s been through an awful lot of stuff.”

Champion then helped set Jones up with the musical rights to Par’s 1971 cult classic. “I think of myself sort of as the godmother of this show,” she said.

“It has a lot of problems,” Jones said of the film as source material. “In the movie (Maude) just decides to kill herself at 80 arbitrarily, and I couldn’t accept that.” He noted that the late scribe Colin Higgins was quite young when he wrote it. “It’s not what you write when you’re 76, which is what I am.”

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Also there: the tuner’s Maude, Estelle Parsons.