Chuck Cooper has joined the cast of Nicolette and Aucassin, a new musical with book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg and music by David Friedman, which will play the Westport Country Playhouse Aug. 28-Sept. 9.
Cooper won a Tony Award for his commanding performance as a merciless pimp in Cy Coleman's musical, The Life. He will play King Mostansir is this musical take of a 12th-century French fable.
Previously announced for the cast is Bronson Pinchot, who made a splash, critically and literally, in the recent Central Park production of A Winter's Tale. Also in the cast is Pinchot's Winter's Tale colleague Bill Buell, Jolson & Co. star and Drama Desk nominee Nancy K. Anderson, Jennifer Allen, Darlesia Cearcy (as Nicolette), James Judy, Jeremy Webb (as Aucassin), Richard White and Michael Wiggins. Seth Barrish directs.
Friedman told Playbill On-Line that N&A had been workshopped in New York City, but that the Westport staging represented the musical's first production. Friedman is well known in the musical theatre, film and cabaret worlds. He is a former Broadway conductor and has also conducted and arranged the scores for many Disney animated films. Additionally, he penned many songs for the late cabaret singer Nancy LaMott. N&A is his first major musical as a composer.
* In other news, James Naughton, the man behind the recent Broadway revival of The Price, will direct Morphic Resonance, an East Coast premiere by Katherine Burger, at the Westport Country Playhouse, Aug. 7-19. Naughton recently appeared at the playhouse in the cast of A.R. Gurney's Ancestral Voices.
Morphic Resonance had its L.A. debut at the Eclectic Company Theatre in 1997. More recently, it was staged at London's Donmar Warehouse and proved a hit in Paris. The comedy-drama about thirtysomethings in love, in Manhattan bars, coffee bars and apartments, stars John Cunningham.
Also in the cast are Claire Lautier, Keira Naughton (James' daughter), Stephen Barker and Tony Ward.
James Naughton won Tonys for his roles in City of Angels and Chicago. Recently, he's turned to directing, frequently working behind the scenes at the Blue Light Theatre Company and the Williamstown Theatre Company. The Price marked his Broadway debut as a director.
The Westport season opened with The Constant Wife, directed by Joanne Woodward (who has taken a management position at the theatre this year), and continued with Austin Pendleton's Orson's Shadow, A.R. Gurney's Ancestral Voices, starring Woodward and Paul Newman and David Wiltse's Triangles for Two, starring Jayne Atkinson and Jeffrey Jones.
The Westport Country Playhouse was founded in 1931 by Laurence Langer, the co-founder of the Theatre Guild. The 1830 barn Langer selected was converted into a theatre by architect Cleon Throckmorton, who had also designed the Cape Playhouse in East Dennis, MA. The stage was given the same dimensions at Broadway's Times Square Theatre, in order to better serve the transfer of plays from Westport to New York.
Appearing in the theatre's early years were such actors as Helen Hayes, Eva Le Gallienne, Jessica Tandy and Henry Fonda. The Playhouse also occasionally hosted play tryouts, which went on to success on Broadway, including Blue Denim, Come Back, Little Sheba and Butterflies Are Free.
Tickets are $10-$38. The Westport Playhouse is located off Route 1 in Westport, CT. Call (203) 227-4177 or contact the website at www.westportplayhouse.com.
--By Robert Simonson