42nd Street Moon to Conclude 23rd Season with THE MOST HAPPY FELLA
42nd Street Moon concludes its 23rd season with Frank Loesser's glorious Napa Valley romance, the Tony Award-winning THE MOST HAPPY FELLA. This masterpiece with book, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business ..., Where's Charley?) is an unconventional and sweepingly romantic love story set in the vineyards of Napa Valley. Considered one of Loesser's greatest works, the stunning score includes "The Most Happy Fella," "Standing on the Corner," "Joey, Joey, Joey," "Rosabella," "Big D," "My Heart Is So Full of You" and "Song of a Summer Night." Directed by Cindy Goldfield, with musical direction by Dave Dobrusky, THE MOST HAPPY FELLA will run April 27 - May 17, 2016 (Press opening: Saturday, April 30) at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. For tickets ($25-$75) or more information, the public may call (415) 255-8207 or visit www.42ndstmoon.org.
This winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical was effusively received when it made its Broadway debut in May, 1956. Adapted from the 1924 Pulitzer Prize winning play They Knew What They Wanted by Sidney Howard, this warm, romantic musical tells of a young San Francisco waitress and the older Italian Napa Valley grape farmer who wins her first through correspondence, and then through tender affection, despite trials, misunderstandings and betrayals. THE MOST HAPPY FELLA had a run of 678 performances on Broadway before going on tour, and was cheered by Brooks Atkinson in The New York Times as "First rate. Without severing his connections with Broadway, Mr. Loesser has given Broadway some musical magnificence. Mr. Loesser has caught the anguish and the love in some exalting music. Broadway is used to heart. It is not accustomed to evocations of the soul."
Other critics agreed, with The Daily News declaring it "As distinguished as it is delightful," the World-Telegram & Sun calling it, "An overwhelmingly inventive new musical, a rich show drenched in love," and the Daily Mirror proclaiming "It is a masterpiece of our era."
For many, this lush romantic, almost operatic score was unexpected, coming from Frank Loesser, known as an exceedingly clever wordsmith who only began writing music out of necessity. Launched on Tin Pan Alley, Loesser initially made his mark providing the lyrics to countless hit tunes created under contract at Paramount Pictures, including "Two Sleepy People," Heart and Soul," I Hear Music," "I Don't Want To Walk Without You," and "See What the Boys in the Backroom Will Have" (immortalized by Marlene Dietrich). As a lyricist, he worked with top composers including Burton Lane, Hoagy Carmichael, Arthur Schwartz, and Jule Styne. While serving in the Army Air Force during WWII, PFC Loesser couldn't always find a composer so he began plugging in his own tunes and found success with wartime hits such as "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition," and "What Do You Do in the Infantry?"
Eventually Broadway called, and Loesser's first outing was the smash hit Where's Charley?, which ran for 792 performances in 1948, followed by a film version. After a Hollywood break to compose music and lyrics for the Danny Kaye film, Hans Christian Anderson, Loesser penned Guys and Dolls, earning him two Tony Awards (for both music and lyrics), and conclusively proving he could write show tunes with the best. But it was his next musical, THE MOST HAPPY FELLA, which declared him a dramatic composer on the level of Rodgers and Loewe. (The show also won him the girl - he divorced his co-producer Lynn Loesser to marry leading lady Jo Sullivan.) Loesser followed with Greenwillow (1960) and then How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which won the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and for which he received two more Tony Awards. His last produced musical, Pleasures and Palaces closed during out of town tryouts in 1965. He died of lung cancer at age 59 in 1969 while working on his final musical. Once asked why he did not write more shows, he responded, "I don't write slowly, it's just that I throw out fast."
For the initial Broadway run of THE MOST HAPPY FELLA in 1956, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez were investors (fans of the I Love Lucy show will remember the "Lucy's Night in Town" episode in which Lucy and Ethel score tickets to the sold-out show, attend the wrong performance, sneak into spare seats, and generally wreak havoc, while viewers can hear music from the production.) It was revived on Broadway for a limited run at New York City Center in 1959 and on the West End in 1960 It returned to Broadway in 1979, and was made into a television special broadcast by PBS in 1980. It was next revised by Goodspeed Opera House in 1991, with two pianos instead of a full orchestra, followed by the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles the same year, leading to a Broadway revival in 1992. It was presented at New York City Opera in 2006, with Paul Sorvino and Lisa Vroman, and then in 2014 at New York City Center Encores! with a lauded production starring Shuler Hensley, Laura Benanti and Cheyenne Jackson.
42nd Street Moon has assembled a solid cast to bring this production to life, including Amanda Johnson (Rosabella), Martin Rojas Dietrich (Tony), Noel Anthony (Joe), Nicole Frydman (Cleo), and a large supporting case that includes Caroline Altman, Doug Atkins, Jordon Bridges, Hayley Lovgren, Scott Maraj, Michael Monagle, Daniel Olson, Lindsey Schmeltzer, Calvin Smith, Andrea St. Clair, Tim Wagner, and Laura Warner.
Amanda Johnson (Rosabella) makes her 42nd Street Moon debut with this production. She has been seen Off-Broadway in Music in the Air (City Center Encores!) and regionally in productions including The Music Man (Marian Paroo/Virginia Rep); Sweeney Todd (Johanna/Barter Theatre); White Christmas (Betty Haynes/Virginia Musical Theatre); Evita (Eva Peron/Open Circle Theatre); Oklahoma! (Gertie Cummings/Atlanta Theater of the Stars) and others. Martin Rojas Dietrich (Tony) is also making his debut with the company. He made his San Francisco Opera debut as Montfleury in Cyrano de Bergerac (with Plácido Domingo) and has also performed with Broadway By the Bay, Coastal Repertory Theatre, San Jose Repertory Theatre, San Jose Stage Company, SF Playhouse, SF Symphony (with Lisa Vroman), Symphony Silicon Valley, and TheatreWorks.
This marks the fourth production at 42nd Street Moon by Noel Anthony (Joe), who was seen in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Lady, Be Good, and Of Thee I Sing, He is familiar to Bay Area audiences for leading and featured roles at American Conservatory Theater (1776), TheatreWorks (Merrily We Roll Along, The Secret Garden, Sweeney Todd, and others), American Musical Theatre of San Jose (Damn Yankees, Miss Saigon, On the 20th Century, and others), Marin Theatre Company (Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris), and many more. Nicole Frydman (Cleo) is also appearing with the company for the fourth time, having been featured in Little Me, Painting the Clouds With Sunshine, and Nick and Nora. Among her credits are Anything Goes (Reno Sweeney/Willows Theatre, Rent (Maureen/Palo Alto Players), Chicago (Velma/Pacific Coast Repertory Theatre), and literally dancing circles around Julia Roberts in the movie Mona Lisa Smile.
Award winning director and choreographer Cindy Goldfield returns to 42nd St Moon, where she has directed and/or choreographed musicals including As Thousands Cheer, Once in a Blue Moon, Finnian's Rainbow, 50 Thousand Frenchmen, The Roar of the Greasepaint-The Smell of the Crowd, SNOOPY!!!, and most recently, last season's The Boyfriend. Ms. Goldfield is a two-time recipient of both the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle and the Dean Goodman Choice awards for acting. Some of her regional theatre credits include the title role in The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Center REPertory Company); Spring Awakening and Bill W. and Dr. Bob (San Jose Repertory Theatre); Another Midsummer's Night (TheatreWorks); Into The Woods (SF Playhouse); Mack & Mabel (42nd Street Moon); and D'Arcy Drollinger's Scalpel! (Brava! For Women in the Arts.) New York credits include Drollinger's Project: Lohan and Mr. Irresistible, with music by Christopher Winslow, at La MaMa E.T.C. Ms. Goldfield has extensive cabaret experience in collaborations with David Aaron Brown (One Night Stand/Going Back for Seconds) and with Richard "Scrumbly" Koldewyn (Goldfield & Koldewyn). This production features musical direction by Dave Dobrusky.
For 23 years, 42nd Street Moon has celebrated and preserved the art and spirit of the American Musical Theatre. To contribute to the evolution and continuing vitality of the art form, 42nd Street Moon presents intimately produced performances of classic and rarely performed musical works. Through its productions, educational programs, and community outreach, 42nd Street Moon is committed to increasing the awareness and appreciation of the rich heritage and cultural perspective of the musical theatre and its vast influence on the world stage.