Brian Stokes Mitchell To Sell Rhymes and Romance in Encores! Kismet

News   Brian Stokes Mitchell To Sell Rhymes and Romance in Encores! Kismet Kismet, to be seen in a 2006 concert by Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert, will star Tony Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell.

A spokesperson confirmed that Mitchell will play the poet and rhyme seller who opens the show with "Rhymes Have I." Mitchell is a Tony Award winner for Kiss Me, Kate, and starred in Broadway's recent Man of La Mancha and Ragtime as well as Kiss of the Spider Woman.

The concert staging will play City Center Feb. 9-12, 2006. Kathleen Marshall, former artistic director of the popular concert series will not direct the musical, contrary to an earlier confirmation Sept. 12. The announcement of Marshall was a honest mistake, a spokesperson said. (Variety also reported Marshall would helm.)

Kismet, originally billed as "a Musical Arabian Night" in 1953, is a rollicking and romantic look at Middle-Eastern life borrowing themes from the Russian composer Alexander Borodin.

The book is by Charles Lederer and Luther Davis, drawn from a play by Edward Knoblock, with music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest (Grand Hotel, Song of Norway, Kean). The score includes "Stranger in Paradise," "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" and the raucous "Not Since Nineveh" (which begins with the verse, "Baghdad! Don't underestimate Baghdad!").

An M-G-M movie of "Kismet" (1955) starred Howard Keel (in tanning makeup), and a 1978 revision of it appeared on Broadway as Timbuktu, re-setting the action in Africa (Eartha Kitt and Melba Moore starred). Co-songwriter Robert Wright died July 27 at age 90. Forrest predeceased him. *

As previously reported on Playbill.com, the 2006 Encores! season will also include John Kander and Fred Ebb's 70, Girls, 70, the short-lived 1971 Broadway musical starring frisky seniors.

The musical comedy about "old folks" and a heist caper, plays March 30-April 2, 2006. The libretto is by Ebb and Norman L. Martin, from the play Breath of Spring, by Peter Coke (adaptation by Joe Masteroff).

A third title to be announced will play May 11-15.

70, Girls, 70 originally featured a cast of seniors, including Mildred Natwick, Lillian Roth, Lillian Hayman and Hans Conried. David Burns died of a heart attack during the Philadelphia tryout. The Broadway run lasted 35 performances.

The 70, Girls, 70 score, which offers vaudeville-style turns mixed into a loose plot, includes "Home," "Go Visit Your Grandmother," "Do We?," "Coffee in a Cardboard Cup," "Old Folks," "Yes," "The Elephant Song," a title song, "Hit It, Lorraine" and more. In the conceit, the performers would turn to their musical director with the cue, "Hit it, Lorraine."

Kander and Ebb wrote songs for Cabaret, Chicago, Zorba, Woman of the Year, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Steel Pier, The Happy Time, The Rink, The Visit and more.

Subscription prices to all three productions in the Tony Award-honored Encores! series are $270 for the Orchestra, Grand Tier, and Mid-mezzanine; and $120 for the Rear Mezzanine and Front Gallery. Individual tickets prices are $90 (Orchestra, Grand Tier, Mid-mezzanine), $50 (Rear Mezzanine, Front Gallery) and $25 (Rear Gallery).

For more information, visit www.citycenter.org.

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