For those who thought hard-drinking, tobacco-stained, nightlife-loving Lorenz Hart was the bad boy of Broadway musical theatre, York Theatre Company's Taking a Chance on Love is out to show lyricist John Latouche as a similarly dark genius, beginning Feb. 17 in Manhattan.
The world premiere musical revue lost Pam Isaacs (The Life) due to health reasons, and now Terry Burrell (of the national tour of Show Boat) steps in, helping fill in the world of Latouche, who contributed lyrics to The Golden Apple and Candide, among other works, before dying at the age of 41.
The original first preview of Taking a Chance was to be Feb. 15, but has now changed. Official opening is March 2. Performances continue to March 26.
Jerry Dixon (Once on This Island), Donna English (Off-Broadway's Ruthless), Burrell (a Helen Hayes Award nominee for Queenie Pie in Washington DC) and Eddie Korbich (Carousel, "Mary and Rhoda") will sing songs from such Latouche vehicles as The Golden Apple, Candide and Cabin in the Sky. Devised by Erik Haagensen, the two-act tuner uses Latouche's letters, journals and poetry to explore his world. The score includes such songs as "Lazy Afternoon" and the revue's title number, taken from Cabin in the Sky.
The piece includes contradictory elements in the life of Latouche: Gay yet married, a patriot who wrote for FDR but was blacklisted for communist sympathies, gifted but destructive. York artistic director James Morgan directs Taking a Chance on Love and designs the set. Musical staging is by Janet Watson and musical direction is by Jeffrey R. Smith. Other designers are Suzy Benzinger (costumes) and Ryan K. Schmidt (lighting).
York, the voice of intimate musicals in New York City, previously scheduled Taking a Chance on Love for November 1999-January 2000, but opted to put Jolson and Company in that slot.
Expected in Taking a Chance on Love are songs from Candide, The Golden Apple, Cabin in the Sky and more. The show represents such composers as Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, Vernon Duke and Jerome Moross.
Lyricist-librettist John Treville Latouche was born in Richmond, VA, in 1917. He wrote lyrics to existing music by Chopin, and teamed with Ellington for Beggar's Holiday (1946) which York presented in concert Oct. 1-3, 1999, in its Musicals in Mufti series.
Other Latouche shows include From Vienna (1939), Banjo Eyes and The Lady Comes Across (both with Duke in 1941), Rhapsody (1944, music by Fritz Kreisler), Polonaise (1945, music by Chopin), The Vamp (1955, music by James Mundy). He also penned the opera, The Ballad of Baby Doe.
Later this season, York will present Postcards on Parade, with book and lyrics by Kenward Elmslie ("The Grass Harp") and music by Steven Taylor, called "an absurdly funny love story which takes a phantasmagoric look at the quirky world of postcards and postcard collectors."
Tickets are $40. The York is at The Theatre at St. Peter's Church, Lexington at 54th Street in Manhattan. For information, call (212) 239 6200.
-- By Kenneth Jones