A Tree Grows at City Center as 2005 Encores! Season Gets Underway

News   A Tree Grows at City Center as 2005 Encores! Season Gets Underway The 2005 City Center Encores! season of musicals in concert will begin Feb. 10-13 with a presentation of the 1951 Arthur Schwartz-Dorothy Fields musical A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Based on the beloved novel by Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn featured a book by Smith and George Abbott and a score by Schwartz (music) and Fields (lyrics). The musical opened at the Alvin Theatre in April 1951, playing 267 performances before closing in December of that same year. Directed by Abbott with choreography by Herbert Ross, the original cast included Shirley Booth, Nathaniel Frey, Nomi Mitty, Marcia Van Dyke and Lou Wills, Jr.

Told through the perspective of a young girl, the story concerns the Nolan family in circa 1900 Brooklyn. The clan must contend with poverty, father's alcoholism and Aunt Sissy's scandalous personal life.

The score includes "Make the Man Love Me," "I'm Like a New Broom," "He Had Refinement," "Look Who's Dancing," and "Love Is the Reason."

A 1945 non-musical film starred James Dunn, Joan Blondell and Peggy Ann Garner.

Headlining the cast are Jason Danieley, Sally Murphy, Emily Skinner, John Ellison Conlee, Nancy Anderson, Mark Ledbetter, Sean Palmer, Jeffrey Schecter, Jeff Brooks, James Clow, Beth McVey, Jennifer Hope Wills and Katherine Faye Barry. (The presence of Danieley, Skinner and Conlee make the production something of a mini-reunion for Broadway's The Full Monty) Jason Danieley will play the alcoholic father. Murphy will be his wife, and Skinner is her sister.

Rounding out the ensemble are Sean Attebury, Heather Ayers, Jordan Cable, Caitlin Carter, Carson Church, Joseph Dellger, Susan Derry, Sarah Jane Everman, Thom Graham, William B. Hubert II, Lorin Latarro, Jess Leprotto, Krisha Marcano, Julianna Rose Mauriello, Karyn Overstreet, Larry Raiken, Gordon Stanley, John Wilkerson, Laurie Williamson and Tony Yazbeck.

Gary Griffin directs.

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The other two shows featured in the season are Purlie and The Apple Tree.

Purlie, based on the late Ossie Davis' "Purlie Victorious," will play City Center March 31-April 3. With a book by Davis, Philip Rose and Peter Udell, Purlie features music by Gary Geld and lyrics by Peter Udell. Directed by Philip Rose, the original 1970 production was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Musical; its co-stars, Cleavon Little and Melba Moore, both won Tonys for their performances. Davis died Feb. 3.

The third and final offering of the season will be Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's The Apple Tree, playing May 12-16. Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth, who recently made her solo Carnegie Hall concert debut, will star in the production. The musical, which featured a Tony-winning performance by Barbara Harris, opened at the Shubert Theatre in October 1966, playing 463 performances before closing November 25, 1967. The musical was nominated for seven Tony Awards including Best Musical.

Emily Skinner and John Ellison Conlee in <i>A Tree Grows in Brooklyn</i>
Emily Skinner and John Ellison Conlee in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Photo by Joan Marcus
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