Goodspeed will present Rodgers & Hammerstein revue this fall, but no big musicals

·3 min read

Goodspeed Musicals will present only concert-style offerings this season. On Thursday the theater, known for its lavish productions of American musicals, dropped the long-promised “South Pacific” from its schedule and replaced it with “A Grand Night for Singing,” a revue of songs by “South Pacific” creators Rodgers & Hammerstein that will run Sept. 24 through Nov. 28.

The rest of the 2021 Goodspeed season, which began Thursday, consists of outdoor concerts in the “Goodspeed by the River” series. Those concerts run through August. “A Grand Night for Singing” will be the first indoor show at the Goodspeed Opera House since early 2019.

In a statement, Goodspeed Musicals Artistic Director Donna Lynn Hilton shared, “We must restart thoughtfully and ramp up slowly to ensure that Goodspeed remains secure for the long-term. ‘South Pacific’ is one of the largest musicals that a theatre can undertake and it had become overwhelmingly clear that it is simply too big of a show for us to produce in this particular moment.”

Goodspeed’s Managing Director David B. Byrd noted in the same statement that “A Grand Night for Singing”'s “more modest size will enable us to continue to practice generally-accepted safety protocols developed with our union partners and outside experts.”

The revue has a cast of five vocalists. By contrast, “South Pacific” can require around 30 performers.

Hartford Stage came to a similar conclusion regarding its own fall reopening, announcing this week that it would be unable to stage “A Christmas Carol” this season due to safety and budgetary concerns.

“A Grand Night for Singing: A Celebration of Rodgers & Hammerstein, conceived by Walter Bobbie (the Broadway director of “Chicago” and “Footloose”), features musical arrangements by Fred Wells and orchestrations by Michael Gibson and Jonathan Tunick. Rob Ruggiero, producing artistic director of TheaterWorks Hartford, will direct.

The show was on Broadway from November 1993 to January 1994, and was nominated for Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical. Among the 35 songs in the show are four from “South Pacific”: “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Honey Bun” and “This Nearly Was Mine.”

After holding onto hope that it could stage a full musical this year, Goodspeed finally removed “South Pacific” after a series of announced postponements that date back to the spring of 2020. The show was just about to begin rehearsals, and sets were already being constructed, just as COVID hit. “South Pacific” remained on the 2020 schedule for summer, then as a fall event, until it was clear that the Goodspeed could not produce any musicals that year. Then the same thing happened with “South Pacific” in 2021. In May the Goodspeed announced that “South Pacific” was being pushed to a fall opening, but hadn’t announced dates or details. Again, it was the last show to drop off the list.

This latest move, according to Goodspeed Musical Marketing Director Dan McMahon, is worse than a postponement. While the theater still hopes to be able to stage “South Pacific” someday, it isn’t currently being rescheduled — unlike another postponed Goodspeed musical from this year, “Anne of Green Gables,” which has already been announced as part of the 2022 season.

Goodspeed’s 2021 season opened Thursday with “Turn Back Time: Ben & Dee Rock the ’70s, ’80s and Beyond.” It’s the first in a series of outdoor “Goodspeed by the River” concerts happening through August, followed in September by the indoor “A Grand Night for Singing.”

Tickets for “A Grand Night for Singing” will go on sale to the general public on June 24. More information is at 860-873-8668 or goodspeed.org.

Christopher Arnott can be reached at carnott@courant.com.