Cheyenne Jackson, James Barbour, Jenny Powers Sing in Private Tale of Two Cities Presentations Sept. 29-30

News   Cheyenne Jackson, James Barbour, Jenny Powers Sing in Private Tale of Two Cities Presentations Sept. 29-30 While the appointment of a new director is being finalized for the Broadway-aimed musical A Tale of Two Cities, the producers Barbra Russell, Ron Sharpe, Ron Phelps, Donald Warner and Mary Laminack are hosting a two-day, three-performance private presentation for the show's investors.

The starry performances of the score by composer-lyricist-librettist Jill Santoriello, who drew on the 1859 Charles Dickens novel, will be Sept. 29-30 in Manhattan.

The $14 million epic musical (with a cast of 30) will have its world premiere in Chicago in early 2006, the producers previously announced. Dates are also set aside for the spring 2006 Broadway bow.

The producers are waiting for a Broadway theatre to become available — and as of Sept. 20 were still in discussions for a director for this big-cast show, following the July exit of first director-choreographer David H. Bell (The Hot Mikado).

With every passing day that a director and design team go unannounced, the existing schedule would seem to be less and less practical — although stranger things have happened in showbiz, particularly when the money is in place, as it apparently is here, according to cast members who were told the show was fully financed over the summer.

Contracts need to be signed, designs need to be drawn, a physical production needs to be built, among other things — and all in the next few months. It's not clear if a new director would be inheriting a kingdom or if that director would be able to bring in his/her own population of creatives.

The world premiere has been announced for Jan. 31, 2006 (first preview), at the Chicago Theatre. Its opening date in the Windy City is Feb. 9. The producers have scheduled a Broadway opening for April 27, following previews from April 11.

The late-September presentations are being designed by the show's marketing director, Sharon Fordham. The festivities will include "three performance/readings, lavish cuisine, elaborate goody-bags and meet-and-greets with the cast, creators and production team," according to a statement.

The performances are presented under the musical director of Wendy Cavett.

Although these private performance/readings are for the investors only, "the show's group sales and marketing teams will also be present."

The cast of the presentations will include James Barbour as Sydney Carton, J. Mark McVey as Dr. Alexandre Manette, Jenny Powers as Lucie Manette, Cheyenne Jackson as Charles Darnay, Tim Hartman as Mr. Jarvis Lorry, Craig Bennett as Jerry Cruncher, Mary Stout as Miss Pross, Nick Wyman as John Barsad, Rob Richardson as Ernest DeFarge, Natalie Toro as Madame Therese DeFarge, Caroline London as Little Lucie, Miles Kath as Little Gaspard, Alex Santoriello as Marquis St. Evremonde, William Thomas Evans as Attorney General, Jeffrey Doornbos as Gaspard, Danny Rothman as Gabelle, Wayne Schroder as C.J. Stryver, Robin Skye as Vengeance and Mackenzie Mauzy as The Seamstress.

The ensemble Mark Ledbetter, Paul Castree, Victor Hawks, Les Minski, Fred Inkley, Tim Shew, Johnathan Hammond, Diana Kaarina, Rebecca Robbins, Anne Kanengeiser, Jane Brockman, Kristin Contrino and Melissa Daniels.

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The novel "A Tale of Two Cities" (1859) is required reading in many American schools. "Set against the epic backdrop of the French Revolution and based on the classic Charles Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities is a sweeping musical about injustice, vengeance and the redemptive power of love," according to the announcement last summer. "When Dr. Manette is released from the French Bastille after 17 years, he must be resurrected from the brink of madness by his daughter, Lucie. In England they meet two very different men: the exiled French aristocrat, Charles Darnay, whom Lucie marries, and the drunken cynic, Sydney Carton. Soon family secrets and political intrigue combine to draw Lucie and her family back to Paris. At the height of the Reign of Terror, the musical finds an unlikely hero in Carton, inspired by love to make an extraordinary sacrifice."

In 2004, James Barbour (Jane Eyre, Assassins) was selfless Sydney, Jenny Powers (Little Women) was Lucie Manette, Gary Morris was Dr. Manette, Gavin Creel (La Cage aux Folles) was Charles Darnay and Michelle Dawson (Ragtime) was corrupt Madame Defarge.

In its development, A Tale of Two Cities was a finalist in the Eugene O'Neill Center Musical Theatre Workshop and was heard in a premiere symphonic concert in Indianapolis featuring a 40-piece orchestra and a 50-voice chorale (narrated by Richard Kiley).

A 23-track concept recording of the musical was released in 2002 and is currently available throughout the U.S. and Europe. The CD features 56 vocalists including Bryce Dallas Howard and such Broadway performers as Paul Castree, J. Mark McVey, Christiane Noll, Peter Samuel, Alex Santoriello, Tim Shew, Natalie Toro and Nick Wyman, as well as musicians from the Indianapolis Symphony and New Jersey Philharmonic Orchestra.

Writer Santoriello, whose day job is original programming development at Showtime, calls the show a traditional book musical that is not all-sung — though a casual listener of the concept recording will hear music and lyrics in the lush pop tradition of Les Miz, Jane Eyre, The Phantom of the Opera and The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Santoriello said she was captivated by the novel in her teen years. A fan of the Rodgers and Hammerstein tradition (and later of Stephen Sondheim), Santoriello said she thought years ago (when she was a teenager, in fact) that "A Tale of Two Cities" would make a great musical.

She wasn't alone. There have been countless international musical versions of the story over the past century, though none has become a widely-known commercial hit.

In 1987, Santoriello, who is a self-taught musician, used songs she wrote for a formative version of the show to audition and get into the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. There was no script at that point. She didn't plan to be her own librettist, it just happened out of necessity, she said.

What about A Tale of Two Cities speaks most strongly to Santoriello? "Love being stronger than hate," the writer previously told Playbill.com. "And how heroes come out of the strangest places."