Danny & Sylvia, a musical biography of Danny Kaye and his songwriter wife Sylvia Fine, and a reading of David Evans and Wicked's Winnie Holzman's Birds of Paradise are among the offerings at the 2002 Chip Deffaa Invitational, held Sept. 5-Oct. 13 at Off-off-Broadway's Chashama Theater. Deffaa, an entertainment writer with the New York Post, began the festival to showcase artists and pieces he has appreciated in the past.
Danny & Sylvia, playing Sept. 5-22 in its first New York bow, premiered in Maryland in a production by Virginia's American Century Theatre. Tony Award-winner Thommie Walsh (A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine) supervises the staging in collaboration with Jackie Manger of TACT, who was the show's original choreographer.
Brian Childers reprises his Helen Hayes Award-winning role as actor-comedian Danny Kaye. Perry Payne will play Sylvia Fine. The musical "follows the rise of Danny Kaye from an undisciplined improvisational comic to an international star under the guidance of Sylvia Fine, his mentor, lover, manager and wife," according to TACT.
Birds of Paradise was a flop when it premiered Off-Broadway in 1987, but went on to be released as a original cast recording. The plot of the show is based around a musical version of The Seagull that's set in outer space and seems to be the perfect show for the creator's community theatre to perform. A successful, but troubled actor returns home to direct it and what evolves is another musical retelling of The Seagull set around a musical retelling of The Seagull.
Donna Murphy and John Cunningham were featured in the original cast. Songs in the score, written by composer Evans and lyricist Holzman, include "So Many Nights," "Every Day Is Night," "Somebody," "Coming True," "It's Only a Party," "She's Out There," "Birds of Paradise," "Imagining You," "Penguins Must Sing," "You're Mine," "Things I Can't Forget," "After Opening Night," "Chekhov" and "Something New." Birds of Paradise will have a staged reading Sept. 30 with Mark Cannistraro directing. Among the other 25 events at the Deffaa Invitational are the New York premiere of Canada's The Other Side of the Closet (Sept. 9-10, 18, 26), Deffaa's own play, George M. Cohan: In His Own Words, starring the Cabaret tour's Jonny Peterson (Sept. 13-14, 20-21, 27-28) and the 1960's pulp novel parody Hollywood Nurses (Sept. 12-28).
Tickets are $15 per show. The Chashama Theater is located at 135 West 42nd Street. For reservations, call (212) 206-1515. The Chashama Theater is on the web at http://www.chashama.org.
— By Christine Ehren
and Kenneth Jones