Dancing in the Dark, the Fred Astaire-inspired musical that was to begin Off-Broadway performances March 25 at the Lamb's Theatre, will now have three workshop readings instead, March 18-19.
It had previously been announced (Feb. 16) that the full production, skedded for an April 13 opening after previews, was on hold "until everything falls into place" with the still-developing business and artistic elements of the show.
The workshops --- 6:30 PM March 18 and 11 AM & 3 PM March 19 --- are open to theatre industry people only.
The cast for the workshop is slightly different from the one announced for the full staging. Remaining is writer-choreographer Jeffry Denman, playing legendary dancer Astaire, who magically appears in the life of a contemporary choreographer going through personal and professional problems. Their meeting occurs in a studio once rented by Astaire.
The role of the choreographer, Jerry, is now played by Sean Martin Hingston (Michael Berresse was to play the role Off-Broadway, but is now headed to Broadway's The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm). The dual role of Jerry's girlfriend, Penny, and Astaire's wife, Phyllis, is now played by Joan Hess rather than Crista Moore. Randall Kramer directs a supporting ensemble trimmed from six to three: Nancy Lemenager, Dennis Stowe and Norm Sham, Jr.
The workshop's musical director is Ian Herman. Jennifer Dumas is producer.
More would be known about a future production for the show after the workshops, which are designed to gauge audience and investor interest.
The conceptual musical has a score that includes the work of the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Burton Lane and original music and lyrics by Donald R. Jenczka and Daniel S. Acquisto.
According to production notes, "the two dancers work together and assist each other in overcoming obstacles, not only from the demands that their careers require, but also the more personal and emotional issues of loss and courage."
Phyllis Astaire died at the height of Fred's Hollywood career.
Astaire managed to recreate himself twice, after the breakup of partnerships with sister Adele (his stage partner) and Ginger Rogers (his film partner). The legendary Astaire, who died in 1987, performed in vaudeville, on Broadway, in musical films and TV. In his later years, he was a dramatic actor on film ("Ghost Story") and TV ("A Family Upside Down").
Producer Dumas was invited to see a production of the show at Summerfare Musical Theatre in Buffalo in fall 1997, and was excited that "it was new and refreshing."
She told Playbill On-Line she "loved that the choreography told the story" of both creative men. The Astaire-like choreography doesn't steal from his specific film repertoire, she said, but recalls his style.
And the modern-day choreographer, doesn't bend his style to be Astaire's, she said. The show suggests, ultimately, that every dancer draws from every dancer who came before.
In fall 1998, Buffalo Studio Arena presented a recast version of the show a year after Summerfare, and seven of the nine performers from the Arena staging were to be in the now-delayed Off-Broadway mounting.
Among songs used in the show are Porter's "Night and Day," Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz' "Dancing in the Dark" and Gerhswins' "I'd Rather Charleston," plus new pastiche pieces and new contemporary-sounding numbers. Contemporary tap is represented in the show as well, Dumas said.
Director Kramer is the founder and artistic director of Summerfare Musical Theatre Company in Buffalo, NY.
The play's title is drawn from the song by Dietz and Schwartz, first heard in the Astaire Broadway revue, The Band Wagon (1931). Astaire and Cyd Charisse danced to the number in the (freely adapted) MGM film version of The Band Wagon in 1953.
Astaire, who was a Broadway star with his sister, Adele, between 1917 31 (the first time 42nd Street was grand and legit), became a movie musical star after she retired from their partnership, following The Band Wagon.. She died in 1981.
The Lamb's is at 140 W. 44th St. in Manhattan.
-- By Kenneth Jones