Wednesday, May 1, 2013

broadway birthday ROMANCE / ROMANCE opened on Broadway 25 years ago today on May 1, 1988

Romance is something that has always been alive and well on the Broadway stage.  In 1987 two pieces of literature from the late 19th century were turned into a musical all about romance called Romance/Romance.  With book and lyrics by Barry Harman and music by Keith Herrmann, this musical has a small cast of just four actors and uses the two leads to play four different characters, two in act one set 100 years ago, and another two in act two set in modern times.  The show focuses on the highs and lows of romantic relationships in both the late 1890's and today.

Act one is based on the Arthur Schnitzler short story The Little Comedy and is set in Vienna at the turn of the century and focuses on two wealthy people, Josefine and Alfred.  They both pretend to be poor in order to find a lover who doesn't have the same hang-ups as all of the other rich and boring people they are used to dating.  Alfred pretends to be a struggling poet and Josefine a simple working woman and after they meet they end up going away for a weekend in the country but aren't sure if they can continue their disguises once they fall in love before confessing who they truly are. The second act took Jules Renard's 1898 play Le pain de ménage, moved it to the Hamptons in modern times and had it focus on two couples.  The husband of one of the couples, Sam, and Monica the wife of the second couple, find themselves attracted to each other and aren't quite sure how far they should take their attraction while at the same time promising fidelity to their spouse.

Scott Bakula and Alison Fraser
The musical started Off Broadway in 1987 and moved to Broadway in the Spring of 1988, opening twenty fives years ago today on May 1st.  The production was directed by Harman with choreography by Pamela Sousa.  The two leads for the show were Scott Bakula and Alison Fraser who were both charming and irresistible and who both received Tony nominations for their work.  The musical was nominated for five Tony awards including Best Musical, Score and Book but came home empty handed as Phantom of the Opera swept most of the categories.

Romance/Romance had a modest run of nine months, closing on January 15th, 1989 after 289 performances.  Bakula would go on to star in the hit tv series Quantum Leap which premiered in the Spring of 1989 and meant he had to leave the Broadway production to shoot that show.   Bakula was replaced in Romance/Romance by his understudy Sal Vivano as well as Barry Williams, who is most famous from playing Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch.  In 1992 a regional theatre production of the show at the Cherry County Playhouse in Michigan was filmed for the A&E cable channel.  That production starred John Herrera and Susan Moniz in the lead roles with Deborah Graham recreating her role as the second female lead that she created on Broadway.

There are several great songs in the show including "It's Not Too Late," which is sung in both acts, "I'll Always Remember That Song," "Words He Didn't Say," and "Now."    Romance/Romance is a sweet and charming show that with a capable cast can be very successful.  We saw a production of the show at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2007 that starred real life couple Matt Bogart and Jessica Boevers Bogart in the leads that was very well done.

Alison Fraser and Scott Bakula perform at the 1988 Tony Awards:

Interview with the creators and clips from the 2007 Paper Mill Playhouse production:

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