The road -- possibly to New York -- continues ahead for Cumberland Blues, a new musical by Michael Norman Mann utilizing songs by the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. After a workshop world premiere that received significant industry attention at San Jose Stage Company (June 5-30), the show now moves to the Stage Door Theatre in San Francisco. Previews began July 23 for a July 29 opening and a run through Sept. 6.
The SF mounting is co-produced by Jonathan Reinis Productions (of SF), JAM Theatricals (Chicago) and Spivak Entertainment (of Philadelphia), in association with San Jose Stage. According to spokesperson Bob Fisher (July 8), the upcoming production may very well stay in San Francisco longer than September, while plans are underway "to do sit-down productions in Washington DC, Chicago and Philadelphia." Any specific details will, of course, have to wait until the company get a sense of the show's reception in Frisco.
Author Michael Norman Mann told Playbill On-Line (July 8) the show has had a couple of cast changes and minor rewrites since its San Jose premiere. Spokesperson Fisher added that Deadheads have already begun championing the show. "We've had an enormous respose from Grateful Dead fans on the internet," said Fisher, "and they're extremely well organized. They've put together groups, tours and convoys to the show. More than half our performances in San Jose were sold out, without any real advertising or marketing. We've received full cooperation from the Dead organization, especially Robert Hunter, since this is the first time he's hearing his lyrics in the context of musical theatre."
The play tells the story of a mine owner who has a deathbed wish to see his three estranged sons one last time.
Hunter-Garcia songs incorporated into the show include "Uncle John's Band," "Ripple," "Friend of the Devil," "Easy Wind," "Brokedown Palace," "Brown-Eyed Women," "Cumberland Blues," "High Time," "Palm Sunday" and "The Wheel." Also included in the score are the Hunter-Lesh song "Box of Rain" and the Hunter-Anton composition "I Will Love You." Playwright Mann, a Drama-Logue Award winner, has also written Box 27 (winner of the 1997 GLAAD Media Award and scheduled to be produced in Chicago and in San Diego in 1998), Separate Crosses, She Sat Behind Me and Godot is Dead -- Merry Xmas.
For ticket information ($25-$37), call Stage Door Theatre, 420 Mason St., at (415) 433-9500 or check out the show's official website, http://www.cumberlandblues.com.