Designers, Choreographer and Target Dates Announced for Musical Tale of Two Cities

News   Designers, Choreographer and Target Dates Announced for Musical Tale of Two Cities Producers of the Broadway-aimed production of A Tale of Two Cities, the musical, have a choreographer and a design team in place for the late 2006 bow.
Thommie Walsh.
Thommie Walsh.

Director Michael Donald Edwards will be working with Tony Award-winning choreographer Thommie Walsh (My One and Only, A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine), Playbill.com has learned.

The creative team will include Tony-winning scenic designer Tony Walton (Guys and Dolls, Pippin, The House of Blue Leaves), Tony Award-winning lighting designer Christopher Akerlind (The Light in the Piazza) and costume designer David Zinn (Bach at Leipzig for New York Theatre Workshop).

The Dickens-based musical by composer-lyricist-librettist Jill Santoriello is expected to have a fall 2006 out-of-town tryout in a major market followed by a December Broadway opening, a spokesperson confirmed.

As previously reported, director Edwards' resume includes The Barber of Seville and Aida for the Metropolitan Opera, new productions of Un Ballo in Maschera and Carmen for Opera San Jose, and many resident opera, musical and play stagings around the country and in his native Australia (at The Australian Opera, among other companies).

In July 2006, the busy Edwards will take over as producing artistic director of Asolo Theatre Festival in Sarasota, Florida. The previously announced Jan. 31, 2006, world premiere tryout start for the show at the Chicago Theatre in Chicago was scrapped, as were spring 2006 Broadway dates (no theatre was announced, anyway). The delay was due to the parting of ways of the producers and their first director.

The producers of A Tale of Two Cities are Ron Sharpe, Barbra Russell, Sharon Fordham, Donald Warner, William Broderick, Ron Phelps and Mary Laminack.

The $18 million epic musical will have a cast of about 30.

The novel "A Tale of Two Cities" (1859) is required reading in many American schools. "Set against the epic backdrop of the French Revolution and based on the classic Charles Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities is a sweeping musical about injustice, vengeance and the redemptive power of love," according to the announcement last summer. "When Dr. Manette is released from the French Bastille after 17 years, he must be resurrected from the brink of madness by his daughter, Lucie. In England they meet two very different men: the exiled French aristocrat, Charles Darnay, whom Lucie marries, and the drunken cynic, Sydney Carton. Soon family secrets and political intrigue combine to draw Lucie and her family back to Paris. At the height of the Reign of Terror, the musical finds an unlikely hero in Carton, inspired by love to make an extraordinary sacrifice."

In its development, the musical A Tale of Two Cities was a finalist in the Eugene O'Neill Center Musical Theatre Workshop and was heard in a premiere symphonic concert in Indianapolis featuring a 40-piece orchestra and a 50-voice chorale (narrated by Richard Kiley).

A 23-track concept recording of the musical was released in 2002 and is currently available throughout the U.S. and Europe. The CD features 56 vocalists including Bryce Dallas Howard and such Broadway performers as Paul Castree, J. Mark McVey, Christiane Noll, Peter Samuel, Alex Santoriello, Tim Shew, Natalie Toro and Nick Wyman, as well as musicians from the Indianapolis Symphony and New Jersey Philharmonic Orchestra.

Writer Santoriello, whose day job is original programming development at Showtime, calls the show a traditional book musical that is not all-sung — though a casual listener of the concept recording will hear music and lyrics in the lush pop tradition of Les Miz, Jane Eyre, The Phantom of the Opera and The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Santoriello said she was captivated by the novel in her teen years. A fan of the Rodgers and Hammerstein tradition (and later of Stephen Sondheim), Santoriello said she thought years ago (when she was a teenager, in fact) that "A Tale of Two Cities" would make a great musical.

She wasn't alone. There have been countless international musical versions of the story over the past century, though none has become a widely-known commercial hit.

In 1987, Santoriello, who is a self-taught musician, used songs she wrote for a formative version of the show to audition and get into the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. There was no script at that point. She didn't plan to be her own librettist, it just happened out of necessity, she said.

What about "A Tale of Two Cities" speaks most strongly to Santoriello?

"Love being stronger than hate," the writer previously told Playbill.com. "And how heroes come out of the strangest places."