Sheldon Harnick's New Musical A Doctor in Spite of Himself Gets Reading With Cady Huffman, Beth Fowler, Jose Llana, Ben Davis
By Kenneth Jones
Classic Stage Company will present a private reading of a new musical comedy A Doctor in Spite of Himself, with book, music and lyrics by Tony Award winner Sheldon Harnick, who drew from Molière's classic French comedy.
Harnick, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his lyrics to Fiorello!, which is currently receiving a concert revival by New York City Center Encores!, has previously spoken of CSC as a possible future home for his new Molière-inspired show, but this is the first serious public demonstration of a likely full production.
The private industry presentation will be Feb. 1 at MTC Studios.
The musical features a score (music and lyrics) by Harnick, as well as English adaptation and additional dialogue. The reading will be directed by David Glenn Armstrong, with musical direction by Amanda Morton.
The cast will feature Ben Davis, Beth Fowler, David Garrison, Cady Huffman, Charles Kimbrough, Jose Llana, Patrick Richwood, Robb Sapp and Elena Shadow.
The play is based on the 1666 play Le Médecin Malagré Lui.
"I love to read plays," Harnick told Playbill.com recently. "At one point, a couple years ago, I was reading the plays of Molière, and I got to…The Doctor in Spite of Himself, and as I was reading it I thought, 'Molière wrote this 350 years ago for Phil Silvers.' It's just a very funny play, and I thought, 'I wonder if there's a musical in this?' So I started to work on it, and I thought, 'If it turns out to be a play with songs, that's not what I want to do,' but the more I worked on it, I thought, 'This is a genuine musical.' There's a lot of music in this, so it was great fun to do."
Harnick is known and acclaimed for the humor and universal humanity — addressing home, fear, identity, uncertainty and joy — in his lyrics for Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me, The Apple Tree, Tenderloin, Rex, Fiorello! and A Wonderful Life. He also wrote the musicals Dragons, The Phantom Tollbooth, A Christmas Carol and more. Before he worked with composer Jerry Bock, he wrote his own music.
Director Armstrong previously directed presentations of Sheldon Harnick's A Doctor in Spite of Himself at the William Inge Festival and the York Theatre. He directed the first-ever revivals of Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joe Stein's The Body Beautiful (and co-produced the original cast recording); Harold Arlen, George Gershwin and E.Y. Harburg's Life Begins at 8:40; Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe's The Day Before Spring; Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt's Roadside; Lindsay & Crouse's Happy Hunting and a revised version of Plain and Fancy.
CSC's next production in its East 13th Street home is a revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Passion, begnning previews Feb. 8. John Doyle directs Judy Kuhn, Melissa Errico and Ryan Silverman.
CSC's Mainstage season ends in May with Bertolt Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle starring Christopher Lloyd and featuring a new score by Tony Award-winning singer/songwriter Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening). Artistic director Brian Kulick (who directed this past season's sold-out production of Brecht's Galileo starring F. Murray Abraham at CSC) directs.
Classic Stage Company is committed to re-imagining the classical repertory for a contemporary American audience. For more information, visit classicstage.org.
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