Pal Joey, the notoriously tricky Rodgers and Hart musical with a score as lovely as its lead characters are thorny, is heading back to Broadway next year in a newly revised version to be co-directed by Tony Goldwyn and Savion Glover.
Casting hasn’t been announced, but the revised Pal Joey will arrive during the 2022-2023 Broadway season with choreography by Glover, a new book by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Richard LaGravenese and additional music selected from the great Rodgers and Hart canon. In addition to the musical’s original numbers like “Bewitched, Bothered, Bewildered” and “I Could Write a Book,” the new Pal Joey will include such beloved Rodgers and Hart standards as “Where or When”, “The Lady is a Tramp”, “It Never Entered My Mind”, “My Heart Stood Still”, “Falling in Love With Love” and “There’s A Small Hotel,” among others.
LaGravenese and the creative team will reimagine the original John O’Hara book to set the musical in the 1940s (from the traditional 1930s), relocate the action to the Black community on the South Side of Chicago, and change the ingenue character of Linda from a stenographer/clerk to an aspiring singer. The changes – made with the permission of the Rodgers and Hart estate – are designed in part to allow for the interpolation of the additional songs into the score.
The producing team that made the announcement today will be led by Jeffrey Richards and co-produced by Funny World Productions, Willette Klausner and Irene Gandy. Set designer Derek McLane, costume designer Emilio Sosa, lighting designer Natasha Katz and orchestrator/arranger/music supervisor Daryl Waters round out the creative team.
Though it was poorly received upon opening in 1940 with a cast that included Gene Kelly and Vivienne Segal, Pal Joey would be reevaluated over the decades on its way to classic status. The 1957 film adaptation starring Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak did some of the heavy lifting on the show’s reputation – in part by adding other Rodgers and Hart songs to the original line-up.
Still, the musical’s book, at least as written by O’Hara, can be touchy, with characters often criticized as cynical and unlikeable, particularly the male lead Joey Evans, a gold-digging young cad on the make who moves in on the wealthy, older sophisticate Vera Simpson. The mercenary pairing fuels the musical’s gem “Bewitched, Bothered, Bewildered” and its steely-eyed lyrics (sung by Vera about that fool-with-charms Joey) “He is cold I agree/He can laugh, but I love it/Although the laugh’s on me.”
Pal Joey was last on Broadway in a troubled 2008 production directed by Joe Mantello and starring Stockard Channing as Vera. Joey was played, in a last-minute cast changed, by actor-dancer Matthew Risch, an understudy to the production’s original Joey, Jersey Boys‘ Christian Hoff, who left the show during previews due to an injured foot and, reportedly, less than the full support of the show’s producers.
The 2008 production was generally slammed by critics, unlike the ecstatically received 1995 concert staging by New York City Center Encores! that starred Peter Gallagher and Patti LuPone, an iteration that did much to foster the ongoing reconsideration of the musical as a treasure with a rightful place in the Great American canon.
The upcoming production certainly will generate considerable anticipation built around Glover’s skills as a top notch choreographer. Among his Broadway credits is his Tony Award-winning choreography for Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk (1996), and he was Tony-nominated for his performance in Black and Blue (1989), as well as his choreography for Noise/Funk and 2016’s Shuffle Along.
Goldwyn is most widely known as an actor, with Broadway credits including Holiday, Promises, Promises, Network and this year’s Tony-winning best play The Inheritance, and TV and film roles in Scandal, Dexter, Ghost and A Walk on the Moon. Among his many TV directing credits is the 2014 WE series The Divide, which he co-created and produced with LaGravenese.
Oscar-nominated for writing 1991’s The Fisher King, LaGravenese has also written screenplays for The Ref, The Bridges of Madison County, The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Horse Whisperer, Beloved, Water For Elephants and HBO’s Behind The Candelabra, among others.