AROUND THE WORLD, Orson Welles & Cole Porter's Re-Discovered Work, Begins Performances Friday in NYC
The unknown play written by Orson Welles and Cole Porter Around The World, based on Jules Verne's Around The World in 80 Days, is to play a series of benefit performances in London's Sadler's Wells and New York City's Mint Theater. The performances are fundraising events for The Lost Musicals Charitable Trust (UK). This production marks the first time it will be seen in NYC since the original production in 1946. Some 70 years after the original Broadway production, a new generation of New Yorkers will get the rare opportunity of seeing Around The World.
Direct from London, comes Lost Musicals' acclaimed semi-staged performance of this neglected musical by two theatrical giants-Orson Welles and Cole Porter. Around The World is a Marx Brothers-type musical satire on the British... and everyone else. Based on Jules Verne's classic novel, the story follows Phineas Fogg, who makes a bet to go 'Around The World In Eighty Days.' Welles' madcap script shows off his incredible showmanship and comedic sense of fun, while Porter's delightful score-including "Pipe Dreaming," "There He Goes, Mr. Phineas Fogg," "Whenever They Fly The Flag Of Old England," "Should I Tell You I Love You," and "Look What I Found," featuring his usual lyrical wit and melodic panache.
The play premiered on Broadway at the Adelphi Theatre on May 31, 1946, with a cast and crew of 150 people. Orson Welles returned from Hollywood to Broadway as the writer, producer, director and star-advertising the show as a "Musical Extravaganza." Indeed, the spectacular production boasted a giant mechanical elephant, an onstage train crash, fireworks, magic tricks, silent film clips, and an entire three-ring circus. The New York Post called Around The World "the most exciting musical in years." While The New Yorker hailed, "It's a damn good show, like nothing you've ever seen before." When Robert Garland's review in The World-Telegram mentioned that the show had "everything but the kitchen sink," Orson, always eager to please, came to the footlights the next evening accompanied by a stagehand trundling out an enormous porcelain sink!
Although it initially played to packed houses, Around The World barely survived the summer doldrums and played to smaller and smaller audiences. Despite the obvious star-power provided by both Cole Porter and Orson Welles, the show closed on August 3, 1946 after only 75 performances. Welles, who had helped finance the musical, lost $320,000 on the production. He had also borrowed money from Columbia Pictures president, Harry Cohn, on a promise to write, produce, direct and star in a film for Cohn for no fee. He kept his promise, making the film The Lady from Shanghai the following year.
In 2007, London theater director Ian Marshall Fisher, re-envisioned the show for a cast of 8 remarkably facilitated actors, dressed in evening wear, performing from script without props or scenery and accompanied by a lone piano, on the empty stage of the Lilian Baylis Studio at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre. "The wittily staged concert presentation of the show provides a tantalizing impression of what the prodigiously talented Welles had in mind," wrote Ray Bennett of The Hollywood Reporter, calling the production "great fun." This fall, there is a return engagement of Around The World at the Sadler's Wells in London. The company will then cross the Atlantic, providing American audiences the unique pleasure of seeing this neglected work by two of the greatest theatrical talents of the 20th century in a semi-staged production.
Ian Marshall Fisher directs a cast that includes Nicholas Jones (can currently be seen in Philomena; Laertes opposite Richard Chamberlain's Hamlet); Neil McCaul (Trelawney Of The Wells, The Merchant Of Venice - Old Vic, Habeas Corpus - Oxford Playhouse, Brighton Rock - Almeida Theatre, Oedipus - Royal National Theatre, Calendar Girls - West End); Michael Roberts (Piaf, The Mousetrap, and A Saint She Ain't - West End, The Wizard Of Oz - Bristol Old Vic, The Crucible - York, Theatre Royal); James Vaughan (Great Expectations - West End); Davina Perera (Bombay Dreams - West End, Privates On Parade - Donmar); Rebekah Hinds (BBC's "The Syndicate" and Channel 4's "Shameless"); Lance Fuller, and Rob Eyles. Mark Warman (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Into The Woods - West End) will serve as Music Director.