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Menzel to Take '42' from Connecticut to Ohio

One person's loss is another person's gain. Such is also the case with shows.

When a touring revival of "The Sound of Music" got hung up on casting issues in recent weeks—Barry Williams eventually replaced Corbin Bernsen as Captain Von Trapp—it prevented the production from rehearsing in time to open in Ohio, as planned. This week, with little fanfare, the theatre scrubbed the show and prepared to offer ticketholders a new musical instead of a revival.

The lucky show that will step into the breach is "The Summer of '42," an original musical based on Herman Raucher's novel and screenplay, currently at Goodspeed Opera House's Chester, Conn. facility. The tuner, with book by Hunter Foster and score by David Kirshenbaum, has been warmly received at Goodspeed, prompting its extension there by one week.

Kirshenbaum also wrote the score for the musical "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus," and was cabaret director at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and musical director for several shows at the York Theatre Company, including the revival of "A Doll's Life." Foster is also an actor who has performed on Broadway in "Grease," "Les Miserables," "King David," and "Footloose."

The Victoria Theatre in Dayton, Ohio, confirmed to Back Stage that it had replaced "The Sound of Music" with "The Summer of '42," about a teenage boy who falls in love with a young war bride, played in the film by Jennifer O'Neill. Idina Menzel, who recently starred in the Manhattan Theatre Club's "The Wild Party," plays that role in the Goodspeed production. The youth is played by 15-year-old local resident Ryan Driscoll. The musical was directed at Goodspeed by Gabriel Barre, who also staged the MTC version of "The Wild Party."

Dione Kennedy at the Victoria Theatre said the Victoria's production will use the Goodspeed's cast, including Menzel and Driscoll. "He's wonderful," she said. "He's very innocent, which is right for the character, and he's very comfortable on stage. It's amazing to watch him interacting with the rest of the cast when you know he's never had acting training."

Kennedy said that when "Sound of Music" fell through, she immediately considered Kirshenbaum and Foster's musical, for two reasons. "The Goodspeed is an organization where they obviously do reputable work, a place that is obviously trustworthy," she said. "Also, I had seen a staged reading of 'Summer of '42' last September at the National Alliance of Musical Theatre conference."

Kennedy seemed heartened by the growing body of work produced by relative newcomers to musical theatre, and expressed hope for a bountiful future in the field. "For awhile people thought for a musical to be successful, it had to be a mega-musical, but that's not true," she said. "It has to have a compelling story and characters. And this does."

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