Mar 2, 2007

Walk Like a Man

I guess Jersey Boys director Des McAnuff and co-librettist Marshall Brickman won't be working together again soon. In the SF Chronicle's otherwise standard puff preview piece about the three-member female chorus in the show's Frisco run, McAnuff offered this:
Director Des McAnuff explains why there are only three actresses playing so many roles. When writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice approached McAnuff with the idea for "Jersey Boys," there was no script, just the idea.

"I didn't like it very much," McAnuff recalls... "Marshall and Rick were very gracious about the rejection. And even after I turned them down twice, they were very persistent. So we came up with the outline together. I helped them with the structure.

"And at one point, they came up with a chorus of 16 Jersey girls. Frankly, I didn't think it worked. It was ridiculously extravagant considering the blue-collar nature of the group. So, simply put, the reason we have three girls is because I said we could have three girls -- and that's it."

Brickman hurled a brick back in a recent letter to the Chronicle:

We can finally put to rest any lingering doubts about who is responsible for the success of our little offering, "Jersey Boys"... It is, of course, the director. Le spectacle, c'est lui. I see him now, goose quill in hand, fingers raw, eyes bloodshot from his tireless restructuring of our 72-page "idea."

Would that I had known him years ago so he could have restructured the screenplays for "Sleeper" and "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" and "Simon" and "Lovesick" and "The Manhattan Project"--they might have won awards and gained some critical acclaim. Or instructed William Shawn in the proper restructuring of my New Yorker pieces.

But I was naive then and didn't know enough to be persistent. Twice we offered him the crown and twice he refused it, it says. Sheer modesty. We offered it to him 139 times. Only after we doused ourselves with gasoline and lit a match did he agree to interrupt his restructuring of the book for "Dracula, the Musical" to heed our pleas and, as a bonus, instruct us in the niceties of the musical theater: how to arrive fashionably late, how to humiliate the cast, how to create an atmosphere of collegiality rivaled only by a board meeting at Hewlett-Packard, how to give interviews that, for sheer fantastic invention, rival anything out of Lewis Carroll.

But why be churlish? I owe the man. He wrote our show, ate my dinner, married my wife and fathered my children. For all I know, he may have even written this letter.

Can an Albee/McAnuff collaboration be far off?

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