After the Fair, the new musical by Stephen Cole (book and lyrics) and Matthew Ward (music), will have its New York premiere June 30 at the York Theatre Company's Theatre at Saint Peter's. Opening night is scheduled for July 15 for a run through Aug. 15.
Fair, based on the Thomas Hardy short story, "On the Western Circuit," tells the tale of Edith Harnham, a married woman who agrees to write letters to a young London barrister on behalf of Anna, her illiterate maid. The situation complicates when Anna becomes pregnant. Edith begins to wonder whom she loves, and her husband Arthur starts to realize that something is wrong with their marriage. The score, which Cole describes as "very lush, very romantic," features songs including "The World at My Window," "Beloved," "Between the Lines" and "Your Words Were Music."
After the Fair was chosen by Cole and Ward after they saw a BBC dramatization of the story. Cole liked intimacy of a four character piece "we could really explore," the two strong women and the lack of information with the two male characters, especially Arthur. Cole said, "I had to create him and the history and state of their marriage." Although the story has Hardy's comic touches, Cole finds a serious message in "the consequences of lying to someone you love."
Fair made its debut in 1996 at Dallas' Lyric Stage, where the musical garnered five Dallas Theatre League Awards, including Best New Musical. Subsequent productions followed at Chicago's Apple Tree Theatre and Seattle's Village Theatre.
Travis L. Stockley, who directed both the Chicago and Seattle incarnations, directs the York production. Starring in Fair are James Ludwig (john & jen) as the young suitor, Charles, Michele Pawk (Cabaret) as Edith, Jennifer Piech (Titanic) as Anna and David Staller (Only a Kingdom) as Arthur. According to Cole, a cast album of the York cast is being considered.
Authors Cole and Ward have collaborated before on The Electric Grandmother, based on a Ray Bradbury story, and Call Me Hedda a one-act teaming Hedda Gabler with battered and tried au pair Hedda Nussbaum and actress and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Singly, Cole is best known for his book and lyrics to the musical, Night of the Hunter, recently recorded by Varese Sarabande and soon to be produced at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in fall 2000, with Robert Falls at the helm.
Designing Fair are James Morgan (sets), Michael Bottari and Ronald Case (costumes) and Michael Lincoln (lighting).
Tickets are $45-$40 and are available by calling (212) 239-6200. The Theatre at Saint Peter's is located in the Citicorp Center at 619 Lexington Ave at 54th Street.
-- By Christine Ehren