Bruce Vilanch Departs A SIGN OF THE TIMES

A recent announcement of a new development reading named Lindsey Hope Pearlman as the librettist, not Vilanch.

By: Oct. 24, 2022
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Last week A SIGN OF THE TIMES -- a musical that previously played at Goodspeed Musicals in 2016 and Delaware Theatre Company in 2018 -- was announced for a new developmental reading. The release stated the musical had "several script revisions" and the librettist was now Lindsey Hope Pearlman, who was formerly an Associate Director of the tuner. Absent was any mention of well-known comedy writer Bruce Vilanch, the original librettist, who had been developing the show for almost a decade.

It is not all that rare for creatives to leave projects before they are announced. The recent David Adjmi story about his Oscar Levant play was a reminder of that.

It is somewhat rarer for writers to depart after a creative team is announced but before a production is scheduled. Paula Vogel leaving WAITRESS is one example.

It is even rarer yet for writers to drop off once dates for a production have been announced. It happens though. Recently Paul Rudnick's name disappeared without explanation from DEVIL WEARS PRADA materials, leaving Kate Wetherhead -- who joined Rudnick as a co-librettist last year -- as the only credited book writer for the musical's Chicago tryout. Another example is when BE MORE CHILL duo Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz departed DIARY OF A WIMPY KID before it started performances in Minneapolis. (The reason for the Vogel and Iconis/Tracz departures was officially "scheduling conflicts." Without commenting on those two exits, "scheduling conflicts," commonly used when actors depart a production, is often not a completely accurate explanation of a departure.)

And the rarest situation of all is when writers are no longer credited after a first (or second) production. Harvey Weinstein famously fired all the writers and the director after FINDING NEVERLAND premiered. Marcus Gardley was one of four book writers credited with writing PARADISE SQUARE during its Chicago run but was (likely by choice) absent from its Broadway's Playbill. Usually, when a new voice is desired, a new writer is just tacked on -- à la Amber Ruffin joining Matthew López on SOME LIKE IT HOT -- but these other situations do occur.

It is surprising each time it happens, and it is especially odd for a writer replacement to be announced in a release that also touts positive reviews from prior productions, as the SIGN OF THE TIMES release did. For the new reading, the description of the show's plot remains the same, as the musical is still "based on an original story by Richard Robin." The piece just appears to be moving forward without Vilanch; he is still on the seemingly out-of-date website as the show's sole book writer but one imagines that will soon change.

A production spokesperson did not provide a reason for the switch. Reached via email, Vilanch (who is currently working on another musical with SIGN OF THE TIMES director Gabriel Barre) said he had "no comment" on his SIGN OF THE TIMES departure, but added he "hope[s] it's a giant hit."


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