The musical drama Goldenboy was originally produced on Broadway and the West End in the 1960s starring Sammy Davis Jr. Despite songs by the composers responsible for Annie, the show was nearly forgotten until this summer. Rich Cline talks to writer-director-producer Rick Jacobs, a Brooklyn native who has lived in London for 10 years...
RC: What makes Goldenboy worth reviving?
RJ: Itís a brilliant score. I took the original cast recording CD to the Greenwich Theatre, and they leapt on the chance. But the script was terrible, so wrote a new one with the consent of composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Lee Adams, who have written two new songs for this production. It was originally based on a play written by Clifford Odets in the 1930s and the dialog is just crackling. The play is 70 years old and it still reads unbelievably well. So I tried really hard to work that speech pattern into the show.
RC: Why revive it in London?
RJ: Well, Goldenboy is a reaction to West End jukebox musicals that take songs from another source and write a story around them, such as Mama Mia and We Will Rock You. Goldenboy is of the old school; it has a strong story and songs written specifically for the piece. Of course itíll appeal to audiences because when you walk into a gym thereís a huge electricity in the air: all that testosterone! When you see two boxers fall in and hug each other itís not like a sexual thing, but at the same time it is. The show is not going to be like, ďOh my God, sex on stage!Ē Which is a shame because thatís how all musicals should be.
RC: Youíve got good actors without resorting to stunt casting. You know, Caprice playing the girl who carries the Round One sign.
RJ: We have such a powerhouse cast that weíd never have to rely on that. In the lead is Jason Pennycooke, who was just in Simply Heavenly at the Old Vic. Heís an incredibly lithe and fit guy bursting with talent. Thereís also Sally Ann Tripplett, who just finished her run in Anything Goes at the National. Sheís just unbelievable! Once when we were going through a song I said. ďYouíre going to want to hold back a little bit because youíll want to blow it out at the end.Ē But she sang at the top of her lungs and I thought there couldnít be any more. Then when it got to the end she got even stronger! We also have three local teens from Greenwich and Lewisham. Itís their first experience in a huge professional production like this and their eyes are wide open.
RC: Do you think the West End is ready for a violent boxing musical?
RJ: Weíve become so desensitised to violence in films, TV and the news. And with Goldenboy, itís live and in your face. Itís a really good opportunity to shake audiences up.
RC: How did you get into this business?
RJ: I grew up in a lower to middle class family -- a normal, happy childhood. At university I took two degrees, a theatre directing and journalism, and the school had a chance to go study abroad for a semester. A lot of my friends ended up in jobs or went to grad school or had huge loans to be paid back, and I just said Iím going to Europe and see what I could do, sort of living that bohemian dream. I came to London for what was just six months and 10 years later Iím still here!