The world premiere of the new musical, Abie's Island Rose, wraps its run at the Jewish Repertory Theatre at Playhouse 91 in Manhattan May 21.
Star Heather MacRae was ailing during previews that began April 29, and two performances May 14 were canceled due to her throat ailment. But she is finishing out the run, playing a Jewish mother whose son (Steven Rosen) falls in love with an Afro-Caribbean girl (Carla Woods), much to disappointment of her island-priest father (Keith Lee Grant).
Official opening for the show by librettist Ron Sproat, composer Doug Katsaros (who also directs) and lyricists Richard Engquist and Frank Evans was May 7.
The musical's title and premise are inspired by (but not based on) Anne Nichols' hit 1922 comedy, Abie's Irish Rose, about a Jewish boy and an Irish Catholic girl. Ran Avni is JRT's artistic director. Madeline Gilford is associate producer of Abie's Island Rose.
The musical takes place on two mythical islands, according to the creators: Tornados in the Caribbean and Manhattan on the Hudson.
Songs in the score include "Two Islands," "That Girl," Crazy Mixed Up Me," "Liberal," "Welcome to Manhattan," "Late Night T.V." and "Wasted on the Young."
MacRae is known recently for her award-winning one-woman show, Songs for My Father, dedicated to her father, Gordon MacRae who starred in the films "Oklahoma!" and "Carousel."
Emmy Award-nominated Sproat served as head writer for the ABC cult classic "Dark Shadows," currently seen on the Sci-Fi network.
Lyricists Engquist and Evans are both members of the steering committee of BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. Engquist received the Outer Critics Circle Award for his lyrics for Kuni-Leml in 1984-85. The JRT staging subsequently moved to an independent Off-Broadway run. JRT revived it in 1998. A recording followed.
Engquist also collaborated with Katsaros on Elizabeth and Essex and regional productions of Dennis the Menace. Evans recently completed lyrics for a musical version of the Kaufman-Ferber classic, Dinner at Eight, in development at the Century Center for the Performing Arts (where an initial reading of Abie's was also done).
Haila Strauss (who staged dances for Kuni-Leml) choreographs. Designers are James Morgan (sets), Mary Jo Dondlinger (lighting) and Daryl Stone (costumes).
Tickets are $35-$40. Playhouse 91, 316 East 91st St. For information or reservations, call the JRT box office at (212) 831-2000.
-- By Kenneth Jones