The Sherman Brothers’ 1940s-set musical comedy Over Here - which was set to receive its UK premiere in three weeks’ time with a cast including Richard Fleeshman, Frances Ruffelle (pictured with Fleeshman), Donna McKechnie and Diane Langton – has been indefinitely postponed.
Originally announced in June and due to open in November (See News, 12 Jun 2006), last month the production was confirmed to run for 49 performances only, from 8 January to 16 February 2007, at Shaftesbury Avenue’s Apollo Theatre, ahead of a brief regional tour and possible return to the West End (See News, 20 Nov 2006).
However, after the musical’s producers did not pay the deposit (up to an estimated £150,000) to secure the Apollo, theatre owners Nimax ceded the tenancy to West End veteran Bill Kenwright who, as reported last week (See News, 14 Dec 2006), is bringing Jessica Lange back to the London stage to star in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, starting performances on 31 January 2007.
According to Andrew Jarrett of Swingtime One Ltd, the company behind Over Here, the current setback is a postponement rather than a cancellation and an announcement will be made imminently detailing the musical’s revised production plans. However, show insiders say that it’s looking increasingly likely that Over Here will not go ahead.
Speaking to Whatsonstage.com today, Jarrett - previously out of the country and unavailable for comment – explained that the finances are in place for the production, but that he was unable to secure the Apollo because of unforeseen delays in the processing of work permits for the US-based creative team.
Furthermore, said Jarrett, audience demand for the show during the pre-announcement period - representing bookings for nearly 21,000 tickets – indicated that the limited six weeks available at the Apollo would not be sufficient. The plan is now to wait a month or two for a more extended tenancy at another West End venue. “We’re narrowing it down now,” he said.
Billed as a “nostalgic journey across World War II America at the height of the big-band era”, Over Here takes place on a cross-country, New York-bound train, on which the DePaul sisters (due to be played by Langton and McKechnie) are listening out for a third voice to complete an Andrews Sisters-style showbiz trio. Unwittingly, they recruit a Nazi spy named Mitzi (Ruffelle), who weaves top secret codes into the new group’s musical arrangements.
Over Here became a vehicle for two of the real-life Andrews Sisters but - though it was the highest-grossing musical of the 1974 Broadway season and helped launch the careers of then up-and-coming performers Ann Reinking, Treat Williams and John Travolta – it closed after 341 performances owing to a legal dispute. The show’s Forties pastiche music is now little known by comparison with Richard and Robert Sherman’s scores for film classics such as Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The planned production – which would have marked Over Here’s UK premiere, 33 years after it first opened on Broadway – was to be directed and choreographed by Tony Stevens and designed by Christopher Hone around a live 18-piece big band.
- by Terri Paddock