You may remember him as Charley Kringas, the lyricist character in the Broadway staging of Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. Beginning with previews Oct. 3, Lonny Price will play real-life lyricist Ed Kleban in the biographical musical, A Class Act, at Manhattan Theatre Club's Stage II.
Price also directs and co-wrote the new musical's book, about the life and work of the late contributor to A Chorus Line. The cast includes Nancy Kathryn Anderson, Carolee Carmello, Jonathan Freeman, Randy Graff, David Hibbard, Julia Murney and Ray Wills.
The world premiere officially opens Oct. 31. The show was constructed by co-librettists Linda Kline (Kleban's longtime companion) and Price drawing on a hundred existing songs by Kleban (who was also a composer). The tuner is presented in association with Musical Theatre Works, which Price heads. Scott Wise (Jerome Robbins' Broadway, Fosse, State Fair) choreographs. "Additional material" is by David Wolf.
A Class Act features songs (music and lyrics) written by Ed Kleban that are unpublished, and have only rarely been performed, until now. The songs were "inherited by his friends when he died in 1987," according to a release.
Kleban died of cancer before he matched the success he had contributing lyrics to 1975's A Chorus Line, his best known work. A prominent fund in his name (The Kleban Award, from The Kleban Foundation, Inc.) doles out annual cash prizes to up-and-coming lyricists and book writers. Among characters is late musical director Lehman Engel, the blunt, bigger-than-life mentor to many songwriters, including Kleban, Maury Yeston, Skip Kennon, Alan Menken and others.
Co-librettist Kline has been committed to bringing his unpublished works to the stage since his death. She has written for television, and she also co-wrote the libretto for Theaterworks USA's The Secret Garden.
Director, actor and co-librettist Price is artistic director of Musical Theatre Works, which develops new works for the stage. His directing credits include Pal Joey (City Center), The Rothschilds, Juno and Sally Marr...and her escorts. As an actor, he has appeared in Master Harold...and the Boys, Merrily We Roll Along, Burn This, The Immigrant and Falsettoland.
Anderson received a 2000 Drama Desk nomination for her role in Jolson & Co., Carmello received Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations for her role in Parade and won an Obie Award for her role in Hello Again, Freeman's credits include How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, She Loves Me (Tony nomination), and Platinum on Broadway, Graff received both the Tony and Drama Desk Awards for her role in City of Angels and appeared in High Society, Moon Over Buffalo, Laughter on the 23rd Floor and the Roundabout Theatre production of Hotel Suite, Hibbard appeared as Rum Tum Tugger in 2,197 performances of Cats, Murney returns to MTC after appearing as Queenie in Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party (Drama Desk nomination), Wills appeared in the recent revival of Wonderful Town at City Center Encores!
Tickets are $40. MTC's Stage II is at City Center, 131 West 55th Street. Call (212) 581-1212 or visit MTC online at www.manhattantheatreclub.com. Student tickets ($20 each) are on sale for all performances based on availability, one hour before show time (limit four per student with valid identification).
Actress Murney will hang around MTC this winter: She'll co star in the romantic science-fiction musical, Time and Again, with a score by Walter Edgar Kennon, at MTC's Stage II, beginning Jan. 9, 2001. She plays the "modern" girlfriend of a man who travels back in time to fall for an 1880s woman. Laura Benanti (Swing!) has also been announced to star. Official opening for Time and Again is Jan. 30, 2001. There is hope the show will have a future commercial life on Broadway.