A Connecticut Yankee, the first musical of the 2001 Encores! Series of musicals in concert, will star Judy Blazer and Christine Ebersole. The show's five performances will run Feb. 8-11. Susan H. Schulman will direct, with Rob Ashford as choreographer.
The cast will also include Steven Sutcliffe (as Martin Barrett), Henry Gibson (King Arthur), Peter Bartlett (Merlin), Sean Martin Hingston (Sir Galahad), Nancy Lemenager (Dame Evelyn), and Mark Lotito (Sir Kay).
Ebersole, who will play sorceress Morgan LeFay, was featured in last year's Encores! production of The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936. Since then, the actress has been on a roll. She appeared on Broadway in The Best Man last fall and will return to the Rialto this spring in 42nd Street.
Blazer's many credits include the recent The Torchbearers at the Drama Dept. Off-Broadway. She will play the role of Alisande. Bartlett has starred in many Paul Rudnick comedies, including Jeffrey, while Gibson is still perhaps best known for his stint on "Laugh-In."
A Connecticut Yankee is Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's 1927 tuner about a modern-day man who finds himself in King Arthur's Court. The show is based on Mark Twain's novel, "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court." *
The other Encores! Shows in the 2001 series are:
• Hair, the landmark 1968 rock musical about Vietnam, hippies and the '60s in general.
• Bloomer Girl, a little known 1944 Harold Arlen-E.Y. Harburg work about women's rights and abolition.
Bloomer Girl recently received a rare revival at the hands of Cotton Blossom Musicals, a Manhattan troupe devoted to socially-aware musical works. The tuner about women's rights, a northern family, a Kentucky suitor and a runaway slave, set on the eve of The Civil War, serves some of Harburg's tartest lyrics, including the cult favorite, "The Eagle and Me," sung by a hopeful slave who believes "whatever is right for bumblebee and beaver and eagle is right for me." Stephen Sondheim has praised the song as one of his favorites. "Right as the Rain" became a standout popular song, living on over the years as the score grew more obscure.
The revival (which played through Sept. 24) was billed as the first New York staging of the show since its Broadway original, when Celeste Holm, hot from Oklahoma! starred as Evelina, the fictitious niece of Dolly Bloomer, the publisher of The Lily, an early feminist and abolitionist publication. Evelina's father is a prominent hoopskirts manufacturer. The action centers around Dolly and Evelina's attempts to end the wearing of hoopskirts in favor of the much less confining and inhibiting bloomers. The show also shows the women's efforts to help an escaped slave to freedom via the Underground Railroad.
The musical ran 654 performances and was considered groundbreaking for its attempt to tell a socially relevant story within the frame of a musical comedy (Harburg did it a few years later, too, with Finian's Rainbow and Flahooley). The libretto is by Sig Herzig & Fred Saidy. Agnes de Mille choreographed the original staging, which included "The Civil War Ballet."
—By Robert Simonson
and Kenneth Jones