This interview is a little delayed, especially since this particular production just closed over the weekend, but I thought I would publish it as it was fun getting to learn more about Chris Smith, the director of the Lady, Be Good! at 42nd Street Moon. I wasn’t able to check out this production, but I heard that it was stellar – some of 42nd Street Moon’s best work yet. They were selling out and heard it was hugely successful! Congratulations to everyone who worked on this production. I’m very sad I missed it!
Here are a few press quotes:
“Better than Broadway” – Janos Gereben, SF Examiner, for the complete review click here.
“Fine family entertainment” – Linda Ayres-Frederick, Bay Times, for the complete review click here.
Up next at 42nd Street Moon in May…
Here’s more info on this:
A Giddy romp with a glorious score! Very Warm for May takes the old “barn musical” plot and turns it on its head: an amiable screwball Long Island matron sponsors an avant-garde musical theatre director and his troupe of performers on her estate, with wildly comic consequences.
Kern and Hammerstein’s score soars with “All the Things You Are” (heard in a stunning arrangement unique to the musical), “All in Fun”, “In the Heart of Dark”, “Heaven in My Arms”, and “That Lucky Fellow”.
INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS SMITH – DIRECTOR OF LADY, BE GOOD! @ 42nd STREET MOON:
1. 42nd Street Moon’s mission is to perform rarely seen musicals. Why and how was “Lady Be Good!” chosen to be in this year’s season?
Lady, Be Good! is a show that Greg, Stephanie and 42nd Street Moon audiences really respond to. It’s a seminal piece from 1924 which both launched and cemented the Gershwin Brother’s creative teamwork, it’s bold jazzy sensibilities helped transform the musical theatre form, and it represents the start of a multi-season celebration at 42nd Street Moon of the works of Ira Gershwin. I was not part of the selection process, but it seems a logical and lovely choice.
2. 42nd Street Moon presented this musical back in 1996. How is this production different from 42nd Street Moon’s first time producing, “Lady, Be Good”? Also, were you involved in the 1996 production?
Our production is fully realized, with all-out dance numbers in addition to physical comedy and staging. The earlier presentation was a “concert reading.” I was not involved in the 1996 production, but have heard wonderful things about it. Another special link to it is that Bobby Weinapple, who played “Watty Watkins” in ’96, is stepping into the show to cover Charlie Boyer for a night.
3. The script has some glaring racial slurs? Have you updated the script in any way or did you keep it in its original form? Any other adaptations to the music or dance?
There are a number of small cuts, keeping in mind our modern multicultural sensitivities, primarily around the Mexican gangster storyline. We’ve made a more significant change by shifting the setting from East Coast New England to right here in the Bay Area. The first act takes place in Nob Hill and the second in Napa Valley. It required a small change to the second act opener “Linger in the Lobby,” changing “East Harbor” to “Napa Valley.” We’re fortunate to have good relationships with the Gershwin Trust, which authorized this adjustment. We’ve had tremendous freedom in terms of choreography and vocal arrangements, since they are not notated in a formal way. Dave and Zack, our talented MD and Choreographer, did a wonderful job and everything is true to its period roots yet feels fresh. “Little Jazz Bird,” “Swiss Miss” and, of course, “Fascinating Rhythm” are showstoppers in my opinion.
4. What was the most exciting thing about working on this particular show?
I’ve been thrilled to work with this talented company, they are fantastic to collaborate with and a joy to watch. Working alongside Greg has been a wonderful experience, his knowledge of musicals is encyclopedic! Then there is the joy of being with this material. It’s bold, funny, jazzy and engaging.