Gabriel Barre (Summer of '42, Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party) directs the private presentation of the new musical about the 12th-century religious lovers, known for their letters in the age when romantic love was not widely expressed. Famously torn apart by the church, they were only reunited centuries later when Napoleon's Josephine intermingled their remains in a grave.
The musical was conceived by Sir Ronald Millar, Martin Landau and Tom Polum based on the original letters of Abelard and Heloise and the play, Abelard and Heloise, by Millar, which was inspired by the novel, "Peter Abelard" by Helen Waddell.
Music is by Tom Polum, lyrics by Greg Cullen and book by Tom Polum, Greg Cullen and Stuart Marland.
Jean Cheever is producing the reading presentations Nov. 6, 7 and 11 at the Roundabout Theatre studios (though it's not a Roundabout show). The hope is that producing partners will sign onto the project.
The reading features 20 performers, but the stage show is created for a cast of 26. The Millar source play starred Diana Rigg and Keith Mitchell in London (in an intimate staging in 1969) and on Broadway (in an expanded production in 1971).
When he first came across the Millar script, Tom Polum thought it would make a perfect romantic musical, and contacted Sir Ronald, who agreed and allowed Polum to explore the material. But Millar later decided to work on his own musical version (writing the book and lyrics), and it wasn't until after the playwright's death that the estate agreed to let Polum spearhead the creation of Abelard and Heloise, the musical.
A song called "I Am Yours" was inspired by a margin note written by Millar, from when the playwright was trying his hand at a musicalization.
The theme of love triumphing interested Polum from the beginning. He said the show is a return to lush, romantic book musicals.
In the November presentations, Robert Evan will play Abelard and Tamra Hayden will be Heloise. The troupe also includes John McMartin as Gilles, Titus Burgess, Carolyn Marcell, Steve Elmore, Marguerite Shannon, Martin Van Treuren, Eric Aldefer, Amy Barker, Michael Deleget, Susan Fortunato, Tim Howard, Garrett Long, Michelle Mallard, Jennifer Marcum, Brian R. Norris, Michael Paternostro, Fausto Pineda and Sarah Solie.
Joshua Rosenblum is orchestrator and conductor of the project.
The sound of the Polum score ranges from medieval flavor to soaring theatre ballads to dark, aggressive music (this is a period of trials and tribunals) — and a smattering of "happy villager" songs to lighten the world in which lovers are divided (to say nothing of being castrated, which was the fate of Peter Abelard in the 1100's).
The score includes an adaptation of a song Abelard wrote, asking, "Why are we created? Why are we here? For what purpose were we created?"
The answer then and now is perfect for musical theatre, Polum said: "Love is the reason we exist."
Robert Evan, who recently stoodby for the characters Krolock and Abronsius in the Broadway musical Dance of the Vampires, has also appeared on Broadway in Jekyll & Hyde and Les Misérables. His tour credits include Les Miz, Jekyll & Hyde and Hello, Dolly! A former UGA football player, Evan has appeared on ABC-TV's "All My Children," and his recordings include "Jekyll & Hyde," "The Civil War," "Cyrano," "The Broadway Musicals of 1940," "The Prince and the Pauper" and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's third Christmas album.
John McMartin is the Tony Award-nominated Broadway star known for Sweet Charity, High Society, Show Boat and more.
For more information about A&H, visit the website www.abelardandheloise.com.
Industry people interested in the reading can call (212) 613-5754.
According to the website for the musical, "Peter Abelard is the greatest poet, philosopher and religious teacher of 12th century Europe. He advocates a philosophy of reason and logic over blind faith, and declares that man should never be ruled by emotion. Believing that a religious teacher may not show preference to any individual and to serve all of God's children equally, he accepts the laws of the church and takes a vow of celibacy.
"Abelard, age 37, reluctantly agrees to teach Heloise, the 17-year old niece of Canon Fulbert. Abelard is quickly both intrigued and fascinated by Heloise and is soon struggling with his own inner turmoil at the realization that he is falling in love with her. The consummation of their love is a fusion of mind, spirit and body. But when reminded of his vow of celibacy, Abelard abruptly ends his relationship with Heloise. Now pregnant and rejected, Heloise flees Paris for the sanctuary of the former convent where she grew up. But their mutual love soon overpowers reason and the lovers reunite. When Canon Fulbert learns of the child, he arranges a secret marriage to provide security for the baby's future.
"Though still apprehensive of their fate, the lovers are elated. In truth, Canon Fulbert has tricked Abelard and Heloise into the marriage so that he may take revenge on Abelard for having violated laws of celibacy. Fulbert enlists the support of one of Abelard's disillusioned students to lead a band of attackers who exact a punishment on Abelard beyond imagination — he is castrated.
"Recovering in hospital, Abelard no longer considers himself a man or a fitting husband to Heloise and decides to take the formal vows of priesthood. According to the church laws of the time, Heloise, as his spouse, is required to take vows of the convent. She is angry and distraught as she is forced to give up their son. Abelard and Heloise are briefly reunited 20 years later when she is consecrated as the new Mother Abbess of St Denis. Although destined to continue their separate lives, in their last brief meeting the lovers triumphantly forswear that they will remain 'forever one.'"