Johnston Replaces Benanti in THE NAKED GENIUS Reading At Caroline's 6/14
Mint Theater Company today announced that Kristen Johnston (last seen in the Mint production of So Help Me God!, for which she received a Drama Desk nomination) will replace the previously announced Laura Benanti in THE NAKED GENIUS written by Gypsy Rose Lee, on Monday, June 14th at Caroline's on Broadway (1626 Broadway between 49th & 50th Streets). Ms. Benanti had to withdraw from the project for personal reasons. Additional casting will be announced shortly.
Gypsy called the play The Ghost in the Woodpile, in reference to the ghostwriter who haunts the play, but her producer (Mike Todd) wanted box office boffo. He renamed the play THE NAKED GENIUS and hired prolific playwright George S. Kaufman to doctor the script as well as direct it. Then Todd cast Joan Blondell in the part Gypsy had written for herself. This turned out to be the first in a long string of indignities that Lee had to endure. By the end of the out-of-town tryouts she could no longer keep quiet. "She said the revisions had destroyed her plot and her dramatic cohesion. She said she was annoyed with all the pushing around. ‘Every time I see that show I get a new fever blister on my upper lip,' she said," according to The New York Times. "It was in Pittsburgh that Miss Lee and Mr. Kaufman formed a united front and begged Mr. Todd not to bring the show to Broadway." Mike Todd used their objections to garner additional publicity and THE NAKED GENIUS opened on Broadway on October 21, 1943 and played just long enough to vest Todd's contract. He then sold the script to Twentieth Century Fox for $350,000. Lee told the Times she'd buy a blue-period Picasso with her share of the profits.
Written nearly 15 years before Gypsy Rose Lee published Gypsy: Memoirs of America's Most Celebrated Stripper, THE NAKED GENIUS tells the story of a burlesque performer named Gypsy Rose Lee - author of a recently published memoir entitled I'll Bare All. The cast of characters includes her manager, her mother, her publisher, four Chihuahuas and Ramona the Baby Chimp. It's a sweet farce about the struggle Gypsy faces between her desire for respectability and her burlesque roots. Thanks to the 1959 musical based on her memoirs, Gypsy's transformation from ugly duckling to burlesque queen is showbiz legend. With its focus on Mama Rose, however, Gypsy only hints at Lee's life beyond the daily bump and grind. Lee collected paintings, championed animal rights-and in the 1940s, began a writing career.
Her first book was The G-String Murders (1941), a mystery whose heroine is a wisecracking stripper named Gypsy. She followed up with Mother Find a Body, featuring Gypsy sleuthing with Mama Rose. Soon, Lee was contributing essays to The New Yorker and writing plays. While appearing in the burlesque revue Star and Garter in 1942, Lee began work on her first play. Backstage at the Music Box Theater, in between "I Don't Strip to Brahms" and "The Lady That's Known as Lou," she penned a lively comedy about life after her initial fame, a romance about a smart stripper who collects art, likes dogs, and writes a memoir.
Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a peek behind the red curtain. THE NAKED GENIUS not only lays bare the world of striptease, it paints a vivid portrait of a remarkable woman who was as witty as she was infamous. As she once said, "I wasn't naked; I was completely covered by a blue spotlight."
Erik Preminger, Gypsy Rose Lee's son, and Anne Kaufman, daughter of the show's original director, the legendary George S. Kaufman, will serve as Co-Chairs of the benefit and will appear at a dinner prior to the performance to share personal stories of their famous parents.
Tickets for this one night only event will be $250 which includes show and post-show dessert reception with the cast. Dinner prior to the performance with Mr. Preminger and Ms Kaufman, along with the show and post-reception, will be $500.
To purchase tickets, or for more information, call 212/315-0231 or visit www.minttheater.org.
Photo Credit: Linda Lenzi