Big D in Big D: Menken & Rice's King David Gets First Staging Since NYC, Dec. 15-19

News   Big D in Big D: Menken & Rice's King David Gets First Staging Since NYC, Dec. 15-19 Lyric Stage, the Dallas area theatre company devoted to musicals, will present the first regional presentation of Alan Menken and Tim Rice's King David, the oratorio which was the inaugural attraction at Broadway's refurbished New Amsterdam Theatre in 1997.

The "Biblical oratorio" plays 8 PM Dec. 15-17 at The Cathedral at the Arts District Virgin of Guadalupe Shrine in Dallas. Additional performances play Irving Arts Center's Dupree Theater Dec. 18 at 8 PM and Dec. 19 2:30 PM.

Cheryl Denson directs. Lyric Stage founding producer Steven Jones told Playbill On-Line the principal cast will be in costume, supported by a 100-person choir. He said the piece would be true to its conception: It's an oratorio rather than a traditionally-directed and choreographed musical, though it will be fully produced. Don't expect actors with script and music in hand.

Gary Floyd stars as David with Greg Allen as Saul, Cara Statham Serber as Bathsheba, Mary Gilbreath as Michal, with Greg Dulcie, Shane Hurst, Brian Hathaway, Wendell Holden, Doug Davidson, Emerson Collins, Jay Gardner, Randy Dobbs, Chad Huchison, Jonathan McCurry, Lindsay Holloway, Stephanie Hall, Connie Marie Brown, Vickie Dean, Amy Askins, Karen Clayton, Lisa Miller, Diane Robertson, Laurie Granlund and Louise Anderson.

Musical direction is by Scott A. Eckert.

Tickets are $15 for students and $23 & $29 for adults and are available by calling the box office (972) 252-2787. For more information, visit www.lyricstage.org. *

Menken penned music for Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast and "The Little Mermaid." Rice is the lyricist of Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Chess and Aida, among other shows.

King David ended a nine-performance world premiere engagement May 23, 1997, for Walt Disney Theatrical Productions. The concert event reopened the New Amsterdam Theatre, the historic, opulently-restored 94-year-old former home of the Ziegfeld Follies, which began a decline in 1947 when it became a 42nd Street "grind house" for movies.

In 1997, Rice told Playbill On-Line contributor Ellis Nassour he felt the New Amsterdam's gala reopening may have presented King David at a disadvantage. He said, "It would have been nice to have an out of town tryout, say in far-off Minneapolis. I can put my finger on the factors that mitigated against us.

"From the point of view of the piece, it might not have been the best way to open cold in a magnificent, virtually new theatre, which inevitably attracted a lot of attention. And all this stress and work to play only a few days. On the other hand, Alan and I feel it's been a terrific chance to get something on the boards quickly. We intended this to be the first stage of development. Instead of having continuing previews, we're regrouping..."

According to Rice, he was intrigued for years about King Saul and had considered a musical piece. "Then we were commissioned by an Israeli producer to commemorate the 3,000th anniversary of the city of Jerusalem," said Rice, "with the focus to be on King David. I knew him to be associated with Saul but I didn't know much more. I found him to be one of the most fascinating characters in the Old Testament.

"We were to write something fairly serious, fairly — I don't want to say religious, although it's a religious story, something geared for an oratorio rather than a musical, something outdoors for Jerusalem and not for indoors on Broadway. When it proved logistically and financially impossible to do it and Disney took an interest, we changed gears. But we didn't want to change the piece. That was a problem We felt we'd been commissioned to write it as an oratorio, and still hoped it would be performed as such in Israel. Perhaps, on the road to New York, we should have emphasized that more to avoid being judged primarily as a Broadway show.

There is work to be done, Rice said in 1997. "It's not finished. Perhaps as we gear it for Broadway, it should be less Sheba and more Bath."

Mike Ockrent directed the original staging.

King David marked his third collaboration with Menken, who he joined after the death of Howard Ashman to expand the animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast for the stage and complete the score for the animated Aladdin. They received Academy Awards for Score and Song on the latter.