The Tin Pan Alley Rag, a new play with music by Mark Saltzman, begins previews Nov. 10 at Philadelphia's Wilma Theatre. Tin Pan opens Nov. 17 and runs through Dec. 12. Saltzman's musical features the songs of Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin and also explores the relationship between two of America's master songwriters at the height of their game.
Director Jiri Zizka set Tin Pan in 1915, when the bustling, raucous music publishing business centered in certain parts of New York City came to be referred to as Tin Pan Alley. The story includes such historic moments as when Scott Joplin, the King of Ragtime, pays a visit to the office of a young, upstart songwriter named Irving Berlin. The musical portrays their encounters as sometimes antagonistic, often humorous and ultimately touching.
Songs from the show include "The Maple Leaf Rag," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "The Entertainer," "I Love a Piano" and others.
Tin Pan has been performed three times previously, debuting at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1997. Later, there was a run at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut and most recently at The Coconut Grove Playhouse in Florida.
Playwright Saltzman wrote the CBS television production "Mrs. Santa Claus," starring Angela Lansbury with songs by Jerry Herman. In film, he wrote "The Adventures of Milo and Otis" as well as screenplays for Disney and Tri-Star. In New York theater, he co-wrote the musical revue ASMy Name is Alice and as a musical composer, scored several plays at the Soho Rep. Writing songs and scripts for "Sesame Street," he earned seven Emmy Awards. Tin Pan also received an L.A. Ovation Award nomination for Best Musical. It is Mr. Saltzman's first full-length work for the stage.
The creative team for Tin Pan includes arranger-musical director Brad Ellis, choreographer George Faison, set designer David. P. Gordon, costume designer Vickie Esposito, and lighting designer Jerold R. Forsyth.
The cast for Tin Pan includes Rick Wasserman as Irving Berlin and Johnnie Hobbs, Jr. as Joplin. Also featured are CeCelia Ann Birt, Joel Blum, Tom Cleary, Gary S. Giles, Danielle G. Herbert, Maggie Lakis, Forrest McClendon and Allyson Tucker.
The award-winning Wilma Theater has been producing work in Philadelphia for 20 years. Next up in the Wilma's 1999-2000 season will be the East Coast Premiere of the latest work by Oscar-winning screenwriter Tom Stoppard, The Invention of Love, followed by the U.S. premiere of David Gow's searing drama, Cherry Docs.
Tin Pan runs Nov.10 - Dec. 12 and show times vary throughout the week. Tickets range $7 - $38, with discounts available for seniors, certain groups, students and theater-goers under 30. Tickets are available at the Wilma Box Office at (215) 546-7824 or online at www.wilmatheater.org.
-- By Murdoch McBride