York to Celebrate Stein with Zorba, Baker's Wife, Etc.

The York Theatre Company has announced its Fall 2007 Musicals in Mufti Series -- the York's acclaimed series of musical theatre gems in staged concert performances. The Fall Series will celebrate the work of Joseph Stein.  The dates and shows are as follows:

Zorba, September 14-16
Enter Laughing: The Musical, September 28-30
The Body Beautiful, October 12-14
The Baker's Wife, October 26-28

"The first show in the Series will be Zorba, which has a book by Joseph Stein, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb.  Zorba is adapted from the novel Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis.   Zorba is set in Crete in 1924 and is about the friendship between Zorba and Nikos, a young American student who has inherited an abandoned mine on Crete, and their romantic relationships with a local widow and French woman – Hortense, respectively," state press notes.

Originally directed by Harold Prince and choreographed by Ronald Field, Zorba opened on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on November 16, 1968, ran for 305 performances and starred Herschel Bernardi in the title role and Maria Karnilova as Madame Hortense.  The show was nominated for eight Tony Awards and won a Tony Award for best Scenic Design.  It also won three Drama Desk Awards – for Outstanding Lyrics, Costume Design and Set Design.  A revival opened at the Broadway Theatre on October 16, 1983 and ran for 362 performances. This production brought together many of the film's team.  Directed by Michael Cacoyannis and choreographed by Graciela Daniele, the production starred Anthony Quinn in the title role and Lila Kedrova as Madame Hortense.   

Enter Laughing: The Musical with book by Joseph Stein and music and lyrics by Stan Daniels, is based on Stein's play, from the semi-autobiographical novel by Carl Reiner.  "The musical, originally titled So Long, 174th Street, is about the journey of young aspiring actor David Kolowitz as he tries to free himself from overly protective parents and girlfriends, while struggling to meet the challenge of a lack of talent in 1930s New York City.    The musical opened on April 27, 1976 at the Harkness Theatre.  Directed by Burt Shevelove and choreographed by Alan Johnson, the show featured Loni Ackerman, Kaye Ballard, George S. Irving, Barbara Lang and Robert Morse.  The play Enter Laughing opened at the Henry Miller Theatre on March 13, 1963 and ran for 419 performances.  Directed by Gene Saks, the show starred Alan Arkin and Vivian Blaine. Arkin won a 1963 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play."

 The Body Beautiful has a book by Joseph Stein and Will Glickman, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and music by Jerry Bock.   "It was the first collaboration between Harnick and Bock who went on to write Fiorello, She Loves Me and Fiddler on the Roof.  The show is about a wealthy Dartmouth College graduate who wishes to be a prize-winning boxer and the girl he loves who disapproves of his ambitions.  His fight manager must deal with uninspired fighters, two ex-wives and a new girlfriend.   The show opened at The Broadway Theatre on January 23, 1958 and featured Mindy Carson, Steve Forrest, Jack Warden, Barbara McNair, William Hickey and Brock Peters.  The show was directed by George Schaefer and choreographed by Herbert Ross."

The Baker's Wife, with book by Joseph Stein and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, is based on the film "La Femme de Boulanger" by Marcel Pagnol and Jean Giono.  "The Baker's Wife is a love story set in the French town of Concorde, where the people have been without a baker for six weeks and are filled with anticipation at the arrival of master baker Aimable Castagnie. The baker and his wife arrive, but when Aimable's wife runs off with a young villager, Aimable cannot accept the truth.  At first the villagers make fun of the baker's situation until his goodness forces them to open their hearts and try to help him.

The show has a long history. The musical theater rights of the 1932 film were originally optioned by producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin, and the show was to be written by Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows and star Bert Lahr.  This production never happened, but the idea was brought up in the mid-70's when producer David Merrick brought on Schwartz to write the score and Zero Mostel was set to star. The show began an out of town tryout on May 11, 1976 in Los Angeles but with Topol as Aimable.  The show went through major changes, including the replacement of Topol with Paul Sorvino and of Genevieve, who ended up being played by Patti LuPone.  After six months of performances out of town, the authors decided to cancel their booking at the Martin Beck Theatre.  A cast recording helped make the show known and in 1985, The Baker's Wife was presented in revised form at The York Theatre Company, directed by Stephen Schwartz.  In 1989, director Trevor Nunn convinced the authors to present the show in London, where its score was a given a two-disc recording.  Major regional productions have been presented, including productions at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia and the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey."

York previously celebrated Joseph Stein in the Musicals in Mufti Fall 2006 Series. (Take Me Along, Carmelina, Plain & Fancy). Stein won the Tony Award and Drama Critics Circle Award for Fiddler on the Roof.  His other musicals include Zorba (Tony nom., Drama Critics Circle Award); Rags (Tony nom.); The Baker's Wife (Laurence Olivier Award, London); Juno; Take Me Along; Irene (starring Debbie Reynolds); The King of Hearts; So Long, 174th Street. He also co-authored, with Alan Jay Lerner, the musical Carmelina and, with Will Glickman, Mr. Wonderful (starring Sammy Davis, Jr.) and Plain and Fancy. His plays are Enter Laughing, Before the Dawn and Mrs. Gibbons' Boys. He began his career in TV and radio, writing for "Sid Caesar Show," "Your Show of Shows," "Henry Morgan Show" and many others, and for personalities including Tallulah Bankhead, Phil Silvers, Jackie Gleason and Zero Mostel. He wrote the screenplays of Enter Laughing and Fiddler on the Roof, for which he won the Screen Writers Guild Award. He recently worked on All About Us, the musical version of The Skin of Our Teeth with a score by John Kander and Fred Ebb. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild Council and is married to Elisa Stein, a psychotherapist.

The York Theatre Company in Saint Peter's Theatre is located 54th Street Just East of Lexington.  All shows will play five performances: Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2:30 pm & 8 pm, and Sunday at 2:30 pm & 7:30 pm. Audience discussions will follow both matinees.  Tickets are $35 (or all four for only $125) and are now on sale. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.yorktheatre.org or call York's Box Office at 212-935-5820.  The box office opened Monday-Friday, 10-6.

Photo of Joseph Stein by Walter McBride/Retna Ltd.

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