Continuing Education: Randy Newman Tuner Has Reason to Live

News   Continuing Education: Randy Newman Tuner Has Reason to Live Little has been heard since July 2000 of The Education of Randy Newman, a revuesical staged by CA's South Coast Repertory that seemed on the verge of bigger plans. However, don't count the Newman tuner out. According to producer Ira Pittelman, A Contemporary Theatre artistic director Gordon Edelstein is now having a hand in the project, and he and SCR director Myron Johnson are co-developing a workshop "in the next few months." That said, a Seattle Rep spokesperson told Playbill On-Line the 2002-03 season has yet to be determined and is not expected to be announced until late February or early March.

Little has been heard since July 2000 of The Education of Randy Newman, a revuesical staged by CA's South Coast Repertory that seemed on the verge of bigger plans. However, don't count the Newman tuner out. According to producer Ira Pittelman, A Contemporary Theatre artistic director Gordon Edelstein is now having a hand in the project, and he and SCR director Myron Johnson are co-developing a workshop "in the next few months." That said, a Seattle Rep spokesperson told Playbill On-Line the 2002-03 season has yet to be determined and is not expected to be announced until late February or early March.

The South Coast Repertory production of The Education of Randy Newman ended its extended run of 43 performances July 9, 2000. Myron Johnson directed the show, based on Henry Adams' turn-of-the century book, "The Education of Henry Adams," as its model. The story follows a Newmanesque Everyman from childhood in Louisiana to his arrival and adult years in Los Angeles.

The SCR cast included Jordan Bennett, Gregg Henry, Sherry Hursey, John Lathan, Allison Smith, Scott Waara and Jennifer Leigh Warren. With the exception of Gregg Henry, the production marked the SCR debut for the entire ensemble.

The creators of the show have cobbled together those selections of Newman's catalog that they felt best depict the "life of an American artist in the last half of the 20th Century." With words and music by Newman, The Education of Randy Newman was conceived by Michael Roth (who provides musical direction, vocal arrangements and orchestrations), Jerry Patch and Newman.

The design and production team comprises set designer Ralph Funicello, costume designer Judith Dolan, lighting designer Donald Holder, projection designer John Boesche, and sound designer Francois Bergeron. The piece features an operatic style, yet incorporates such Newman standards as "Dixie Flyer," "Follow The Flag," "Jolly Coppers on Parade," "Roll With The Punches," "Love Story," "Rednecks," "Birmingham," "Louisiana 1927" and "Kingfish."

The musical had a four-day workshop at South Coast in April 1999. Performers who took part in the workshop included Billy Porter, Kathleen Wilhoite, Jennifer Leigh Warren, Paul McCrane (Roundabout's The Country Girl), Gregory Jbara (Damn Yankees, Victor/Victoria), Cortes Alexander and Sherry Hursey.

Composer Newman has also written film scores for "Ragtime," "The Natural" and "Toy Story" and has recorded many pop albums including "Sail Away," "Twelve Songs" and "Land of Dreams."

Newman's previous musical, Faust, has seen several incarnations at such venues as La Jolla Playhouse, in 1995, and the Goodman Theatre, in 1996. Michael Greif directed both productions. The Kennedy Center planned to mount a new version of it in February 2000, but those plans fell through.

— By David Lefkowitz