I was talking on the phone with my brother about the upcoming revival of the landmark musical West Side Story, which, by the way will be directed by librettist Arthur Laurents and will begin previews Feb. 23, 2009, at a Nederlander theatre to be announced. It will officially open on Broadway March 19, 2009, according to an Aug. 8 press announcement. I thought I had seen the play before, but my brother convinced me that I had probably not seen West Side Story, the original Broadway show, but rather I was remembering the movie version and confusing it with the the play. A few days later, my sep-hub said that he remembered seeing the play on Broadway. Some research was in order. It turns out I had, in fact, seen the play, as well as the movie. I did not, of course, see the original production, for if I had, I would have only been one month shy of 6 years old on the 26th of September, 1957, when it was first produced at the Winter Garden Theater, with Carol Lawrence as "Maria", Larry Kert as "Tony" and Chita Rivera as "Anita."
The movie came out in 1961, when I was either 8 or 9 years old, depending on the month. I was sitting up in the balcony of the movie theater and when the movie ended, I was sobbing my little eyes out. A woman, with what I guess were good intentions, approached me to tell me not to cry because it was only "make believe"! I don't know what world she lived in, but it wasn't mine. Even at the tender age of 8 or 9, I recognized the truth in the plays meaning and real life depictions.
I keep several binders of my old Playbills (see blog dated 6/4/06) and was, thus, able to find the Playbill: West Side Story, dated, May 1980, with Jossie De Guzman as "Maria", Debbie Allen as "Anita" and Ken Marshall as "Tony" (I must admit to knowing the 1957 cast better than the 1980 cast, with the exception of Debbie Allen). So, I did in fact see the play, if not the original, on Broadway, as well as the movie. I mustn't let others so easily dissuade me of what I know to be true.
From one classic old Broadway show to another older completely unknown and forgotten Broadway play ( December 1968) called "Jimmy Shine", with Dustin Hoffman as "Jimmy Shine". On this morning's edition of my favorite TV program, Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, one of the featured segments was about Dustin Hoffman, who happens to have a new movie coming out. They talked a lot about his early history as a struggling actor and that despite a decade of working as an actor, he remained unknown. It was his part in The Graduate that began his career and future success. I was surprised and disappointed that they did not mention his role in "Jimmy Shine" and it was not until after I yahoo'ed the play that I understood why. Though I saw it, I have no recollection of it. I found this article, Urban Picaresque from Friday, Dec. 13, 1968. It starts out saying, "A play is a journey. It can be an outward journey through time, place and action. Or it can be an inner journey through mood, psyche and character. Murray Schisgal's Jimmy Shine attempts an inner journey. The trouble is that it doesn't go anywhere". I have to assume that the play had a very short run. Interestingly, it was a musical of sorts and you'll never guess who wrote some of the songs; none other than John Sebastian of The Lovin Spoonful.
By the way, you might notice that the head of Dustin Hoffman on the Playbill is not the original one. I must have had a pretty bad crush on old Dusty, so I cut out his picture and put it up on my bedroom wall. Posterity and the e-bay value of old Playbills was not on my 17 year old radar.
The Playbill went headless for many years until I decided I would try to patch it up.