A new musical featuring the songs of Cole Porter is in development, loosely based on the 1934 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film The Gay Divorcee.
The musical, conceived by Bradley Allan Zarr and featuring a book and music arrangements by Robbie Cowan, will be set in a "brand new 1928 where no one questions who you love," according to press notes. The new plot will follow a gay man and a woman yearning for divorce brought together by a case of mistaken identity "with a surprising twist that shocks them both."
A developmental reading, led by director Jeff Whiting and music director Alyssa Kay Thompson, is planned for November 17 at Open Jar Studios. Vincent Rodriguez III (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Max Clayton (The Music Man), Emma Stratton (Prince of Broadway), Seth Rudetsky (Disaster!), and Soara-Joye Ross (Hadestown) will lead the cast, alongside Cameron Anika Hill, Lamont Brown, Jake Corcoran, Nathan Lucrezio, Michael Mott, Lexie Plath, and Alexandria Van Paris. Linda Marvel is serving as production stage manager, and casting is by Felicia Rudolph of Tara Rubin Casting.
Released in 1934, The Gay Divorcee was Astaire and Rogers' follow-up to their first film, Flying Down to Rio. The movie musical took its title and general premise from the 1932 Cole Porter musical Gay Divorce, which had starred Astaire on Broadway. The story follows a woman trying to obtain a divorce who falls in love with a man she thinks has been hired to help get the divorce authorized by faking an affair. The film adaptation dispensed with almost all of Porter's score, save "Night and Day."
This new musical would be the latest in a string of projects that look to create new works designed for modern audiences while using the song catalogs of classic composers, many of whom wrote numerous Broadway scores that seldom, if ever, get produced. Of the more than 20 musicals Porter composed for the Main Stem, only Anything Goes and Kiss Me, Kate are performed with any real regularity today, both in substantially revised versions. Similar projects have used the song catalog of George and Ira Gershwin, producing such musicals as Crazy For You, My One and Only, and Nice Work If You Can Get It.