Before Broadway had really warmed up to the idea of screen-to-stage musical adaptations, My Favorite Year, with a charming score by Ahrens and Flaherty (Once On This Island, Suessical, Ragtime, Rocky) made a go of it on Broadway, opening December 10, 1992 at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater. But, then subsequently closed on January 10, 1993 after only 36 performances and 45 previews. The show was eventually nominated for three Tony Awards, winning Martin her first.
In the 1950s Benjy Stone (a Mel Brooks-type), is a sketch writer for a live television variety show starring King Kaiser (Sid Caesar-type). Signed for a guest appearance is Alan Swann (an Errol Flynn-type), a one-time movie idol whose career was disrupted by his addiction to alcohol and loose women. The task of keeping him sober and celibate until airtime falls to Benjy, who soon finds himself involved in a sequence of shenanigans unlike any he ever experienced before.
Various characters, including Benjy’s pushy mother Belle Steinberg Carroca and Alan Swann’s estranged daughter Tess, complicate Benjy’s task. The other writers, Sy, Alice and Herb, add to the chaos.
The cast included Evan Pappas, Tim Curry, Tom Mardirosian, Katie Finneran, Andrea Martin (in her Broadway debut), Josh Mostel, and Lainie Kazan, who reprised the role of Benjy’s mother she had played in the film. The show was directed by Ron Lagomarsino and choreographed by Thommie Walsh, with scenic design by Thomas Lynch, costume design by Patricia Zipprodt, and lighting design by Jules Fisher, with associate lighting designer Peggy Eisenhauer.
With the creative team constantly reworking the troubled production during previews, My Favorite Year received unfortunately mixed-to-negative reviews. The New York Times’s Frank Rich called the musical “a missed opportunity, a bustling but too frequently flat musical that suffers from another vogue of the 1950s, an identity crisis,” and disapproved of the melodramatic turn taken in the show’s second act, while Time magazine condemned it as a “barren Broadway musical.” But an original cast recording was still released on the RCA Victor label, forming a reasonable cult following of the illfated show.
In March 2007, The Chicago Sun-Times revealed that Flaherty and Ahrens were “reworking the show with an eye on a new Broadway production.”Flaherty said that, “In hindsight, I think our decision to paint the musical in somewhat darker colors was a mistake.” Among the revisions made to the show are two new songs, which were incorporated into a March 2007 repertory production of the show at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, Chicago. Before that, Musicals Tonight! in New York presented a staged concert in April 2003.
Click below to watch scenes from My Favorite Year on Broadway in 1992:
Original Press Reels
Andrea Martin wins first Tony Award in 1993, presented by Bea Arthur.