International City Theatre closes its 25th, Silver Jubilee Season with the world premiere of an original musical about glamorous and enigmatic silver screen legend Greta Garbo. With book and lyrics by the late Buddy Kaye ("A-Your Adorable," the "I Dream Of Jeannie" television theme) and music by the late Mort Garson ("Our Day Will Come"), When Garbo Talks! opens on October 15 and continues through November 7 at International City Theatre in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Low-priced previews begin October 12.
Additional book writer Richard D. Kaye has worked closely with director Jules Aaron to develop When Garbo Talks!, his father's final project, for the ICT stage. The eight-person ensemble features Jessica Burrows in the title role; Michael Stone Forrest as Swedish film director Mauritz Stiller; Matthew Henerson as MGM studio mogul Louis B. Mayer; Christopher Carothers as silent film star John Gilbert; Alexandra Ackerman as Swedish acting coach Signe Enwall; Teya Patt as Mayer's longtime assistant, Ida Koverman; Nick Rogers as MGM exec Eddie Mannix; and Scott Kruse in a variety of roles. Brent Crayon is musical director and Kay Cole choreographs.
Greta Garbo's beautiful, glamorous, Sphinx-like image - carefully cultivated by MGM - captivated American and European viewers of both the silent screen of the '20s and sound films of the '30s. Garbo's personal decision to leave her film career in 1941 and maintain a notoriously private, reclusive lifestyle has only further enhanced her mystique.
"This new play shows us a Garbo that many of her fans may not recognize - the young actress just starting out," explains Aaron. "It shows the humor and the passions of the woman who would later develop into an iconic figure. Garbo was really the first modern woman in film. She demanded - and received - treatment and pay equal to that of her male counterparts."
When Garbo Talks! begins when 17-year-old acting student Greta Gustafsson is discovered by Sweden's genius film director, Mauritz Stiller. Stiller uses her talent to angle his way into Hollywood, but MGM's Louis B. Mayer has plans of his own. Hearts break and careers plummet when the emboldened 24-year-old Greta Garbo challenges Mayer and the Hollywood establishment to become MGM's highest paid actress and most reluctant international star.
"The script was sitting on my father's desk when he passed away suddenly in 2002," says Kaye. "I looked at it and thought, 'I'm going to make this happen.' As a music publisher, my mission was to complete his work and introduce 20 new songs to the American songbook. This would not have happened without my friend and mentor Jules Aaron, who has a PhD in Theater from NYU, and was so instrumental in the development of this show."
Jules Aaron has directed numerous critically-acclaimed productions on the International City Theatre stage including, most recently, Songs for a New World, The Threepenny Opera, Cabaret, Song of Singapore, Jesus' Kid Brother and Charley's Aunt, going all the way back to ICT's inaugural production, A Quiet End, in 1986. Elsewhere he has directed over 250 productions at venues such as New York's Public Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, South Coast Repertory, Pasadena Playhouse, La Mirada Performing Arts Center, TheatreWorks and the Philadelphia Theatre Company, and he is the former Artistic Director of the Grove Shakespeare Festival. He has directed many world premieres including works by John Guare, Leonard Melfi, William Hauptmann, Craig Lucas, Keith Reddin and Susan Miller, and has directed actors JuliAnne Moore, Don Cheadle, Billy Zane, John Vickery, Jane Carr, David Birney, Ralph Waite, Joan Van Ark and Bruce Davison, among others. Jules is the recipient of multiple accolades including Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, LA Weekly, Back Stage and Drama Logue Awards. He is currently developing Cool Papa's Party with Wayne Brady in New York and I Only Have Eyes For You, based on the life of Al Dubin, for Corky Hale Productions.