Whereas the Broadway hit musical Rent made its debut on a small stage in New York City's East Village, currently opening the season in the Village Theatre, in Issaquah, WA, is the world premiere of City Kid; a new rock-n- roll musical written by pop music composers Rick Chudacoff and Peter Bunneta, with book and lyrics by Adrienne Anderson, playing through Nov. 3.
A cast recording of City Kid is already available at the performances, on CD and cassette. Although the show features raw, youthful talent, singing contemporary music miked by headsets as in Rent, the Village Theatre prefers to dub their new musical "a West Side Story of the '90s."
"Rent is more socially cutting edge than City Kid, which is more mainstream " says publicity manager Aaron Shanks. "We feel City Kid appeals to broader demographics."
City Kid tells the coming of age tale of Jimmy, a young man who, in his longing to "be somebody," journeys from naivete to discovery to disillusionment, while confronted with the deadly choices of today's teens. Steering clear of the AIDS virus, through music with R&B roots, hip-hop, and a variety of musical styles and contemporary choreography, the story explores the passions and challenges of today's youth as Jimmy falls in love, in despair and into hope.
The show has garnered interest from Mainstage Management International (MMI), a national touring company, and Shanks admitted that "Broadway is a possible goal." Terry Kippenberger of MMI felt that, "City Kid had 'hit' written all over it. Its infectious music, dynamic choreography and relevant subject matter spoke to us as few other musicals have in recent years. In an age of 'revival fever' on Broadway, City Kid is a breath of fresh air from the Pacific Northwest. Village Theatre has been working with the composers for two years on the creation. Located in King's County, 25 minutes east of Seattle , this 17 year-old theatre promotes itself as a family theatre, dedicated to commissioning and producing new musicals geared for national exposure.
Village Theatre also trains young people in theatre skills for career opportunities, while promoting positive values through art. City Kid was originally workshopped in Village Theatre's 1995 KIDSTAGE production, a yearly program which features shows entirely directed, produced and performed by young people ages 5-20.
Village Artistic Director Steve Tompkins directed and choreographed City Kid, a stylistic shift from his most recent works Kiss, Me Kate, and On the Town. He feels, "The heart of City Kid is in it's music-pop-sound . . . Like opera, emotions and passions are expressed though song. Its urban beat and rhythms can best be compared to a rock concert . . . exploding with music-video style."
Perhaps the musical's biggest coup is Los Angeles lyricist Anderson, who has collaborated with Barry Manilow, Dionne Warwick, Peter Allen, and Melissa Manchester. She was motivated to write City Kid because she thought the explosive and socially relevant qualities of today's pop music would make a powerful storytelling vehicle.
In addition, the show's composers Chudacoff and Bunneta, have received many Gold, Platinum, and Triple Platinum album credits from their work, with artists such as Kenny G, Johnny Mathis, Michael Bolton, Patti LaBelle and the Temptations.
Although City Kid, unlike Rent, does not have immediate plans for Broadway, the new musical (which incidentally does not take place in any specific city), has high hopes that it will be seen in cities around the world.
City Kid runs Wed-Sat 8 PM; Sat & Sun 2 PM, and Sun 7 PM. Tickets are $13-25, and can be purchased by calling (206) 392-2202, or (206) 292-ARTS.
-- By Blair Glaser