Brier, Orfeh, Etc. to Star in Readings of 'Lovely War'

By: May. 10, 2006
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Director Sharon Rosen has announced two excerpted presentations of the Broadway-bound revival of Oh What a Lovely War, which will take place Monday, May 22 and Tuesday, May 23 beginning at 1:00 p.m. 

The industry-only readings will take place at The Roundabout Studios, located at 115 West 45th Street (12th Floor). The first North American revival of this acclaimed 1964 Broadway musical, Rosen's production features an all-female company - cast and band.  The cast of the upcoming presentations features Jennifer Barnhart (Avenue Q), Beth Beyer (National Tour of The Sound of Music), Kathy Brier (Hairspray), Sara Gettelfinger (Grey Gardens, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), Robin Givens (Chicago), Renée Elise Goldsberry (The Color Purple), Orfeh (. . . Trailer Park Musical), and Sara Schmidt (Jersey Boys).

Oh What a Lovely War is a satiric chronicle of the First World War told through songs and images of the period.  "One of the most produced plays in the United Kingdom, the show examines the human side of war through witty scenes and parody songs.  A high-spirited evening set as a Pierrot show, the ensemble jump from role to role to tell the stories of people affected by war," state press notes.

The musical features a book by Joan Littlewood, Charles Chilton and Theatre Workshop, Inc. and features popular music from the time period, including such standards as "Pack Up Your Troubles," "Goodbye-ee" and "Keep The Home Fires Burning."

Oh What a Lovely War features musical direction by John Randall.  The upcoming Broadway production will feature scenic design by Neil Patel, costume design by Therese Bruck and sound design by Peter Fitzgerald.

Oh What a Lovely War was first performed by Littlewood's Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, London in 1963.  That same year, after receiving critical and popular acclaim in London, the musical won the Grand Prix of the Théâtre des Nations festival in Paris.  Legendary producer David Merrick brought the production to New York, and it opened at Broadhurst Theatre on September 30, 1964.  The production received four Tony nominations that season, including Best Musical, Best Direction (for Ms. Littlewood), Best Featured Actress (for Barbara Windsor) and Best Featured Actor for Victor Spinetti, who won the award.

In 1969, Sir Richard Attenborough made his directorial debut with the Golden Globe Award-winning film version of the musical, which boasted Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Corin Redgrave, Michael Redgrave, Maggie Smith, Ian Holm and Susannah York in its cast.

Unlike the original production, Rosen's revival will feature an all-female company – both cast and band.  According to Rosen, "A production featuring an all-female company allows those that were left behind to tell the story.  The women in the cast will take on each of their multiple characters as written, which brings a great deal of humility, truth and irony to the piece.  Although WWI began over 90 years ago, the nature of war has hardly changed.  With light-hearted parody and realistic facts and projected photos, the satire rings true and deep, even in these modern times."

Last fall, Rosen presented, in partnership with The New York Musical Theatre Festival, full readings of the musical with a cast that included Beyer, as well as Stephanie Beatriz, Liz Callaway, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Nikki Renée Daniels, Leah Hocking, Emily Hsu, Isabel Keating, Liz McCartney, Gina Milo, Paige Price, Haviland Stillwell and Kate Wetherhead.

For more information about the upcoming readings of Oh, What a Lovely War, which will take place on Monday, May 22 and Tuesday, May 23 at The Roundabout Studios located at 115 West 45th Street (12th Floor), please call Roy Gabay Productions at 212-997-5399 or email