Earley, Halling, Nichols, Blass Star in Boxing Musical Seeing Stars, in the Ring at NYMF

News   Earley, Halling, Nichols, Blass Star in Boxing Musical Seeing Stars, in the Ring at NYMF Seeing Stars, a new musical set in the rough and tumble world of Depression-era professional boxing, will get its world premiere at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in October. In the ring — fighting it out for the love of a dame — will be Broadway's Kevin Earley and Michael Halling.
Kevin Earley
Kevin Earley

The musical by songwriting brothers Don Breithaupt (music) and Jeff Breithaupt (lyrics) and librettist Shelley McPherson will play Oct. 7-17 at The Theatre at St. Clement's, 423 West 46th St, in Manhattan. Jenn Thompson (Off-Broadway's acclaimed The Eccentricities of a Nightingale) directs, Liza Gennaro (Tin Pan Alley Rag and Broadway's Once Upon A Mattress and The Most Happy Fella) choreographs.

Seeing Stars features a cast of 20 including Earley (of Broadway's A Tale of Two Cities, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Les Miserables) as champion boxer Eddie "Bare Knuckles" McSorley, and Halling (Broadway's A Tale of Two Cities, In My Life, Pajama Game, The Boy From Oz and The Scarlet Pimpernel) as "Gentleman" Joe Sullivan, McSorley's rival in and out of the ring.

The musical has its roots in a stand-alone song written by the brothers Breithaupt. Librettist McPherson told Paybill.com, "Norm Lewis was the first to perform it at one of the 'Breithaupt Brothers Songbook' shows at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater. Then, when the Breithaupt Brothers and I were talking about writing an original musical, I suggested that that song would be a gorgeous jumping-off point for a story about a cocky boxer who gets blindsided by love. The lyric for that song has changed to reflect our story. And it's one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking ballads I know."

She continued, "Jeff and I — we're married — love New York history and 1930s movies, particularly screwball comedies, so it's fun for us to write in that idiom. By 1937, Prohibition was over, a second wave of the Depression had set in, movies had a code to keep them from becoming too raunchy, and boxing was hugely popular. It was a colorful time in New York. And it was the perfect setting for our story. When we set out to write Seeing Stars, we wanted to write the kind of musical we were hungry for and hadn't seen much of in recent years: an original musical with a great score, a character-driven story, classic romantic comedy and lotsa heart."

According to production notes, "Seeing Stars, set in the rich milieu of New York's 1930s boxing scene, is a tough and tender romantic comedy centered on a love triangle that gets settled in the ring. This original musical tells the story of childhood friends Eddie 'Bare Knuckles' McSorley and 'Gentleman' Joe Sullivan; two rival boxers in love with Jean, a feisty reporter working at the World Chronicle. A black-and-blue romance with a bruising climax and a colorful cast of pugs, thugs and dames, Seeing Stars picks up where Broadway's mid-century giants left off with a larger-than-life landscape populated by tuneful palookas and palpable local color. Filled with laughs, style and memorable melodies, Seeing Stars explores the world of 'boys being boys' and the women who love them." The NYMF production will feature Margaret Nichols (national tour of Les Miz, Off-Broadway's recent Bedroom Farce) as reporter Jean Barker; Jane Blass (Broadway's Hairspray) as sexy chanteuse Maxi, plus John Plumpis (tours of The Lion King, Barrymore and Laughter on the 23rd Floor), Richard Pruitt (Broadway's 42nd Street and On the Waterfront), Evan Thompson (Broadway's 1776, City of Angels, Ivanov) and Robert Stoeckle (Broadway's It's So Nice To Be Civilized and The Canterbury Tales), Buzz Roddy, Jean Tafler, Jerry Jerger plus Jessica Elovsson, Cooper David Grodin, David H. Hamilton, Natasha Harper, Gwen Hollander, Drew Humphry, Dustin Jesberger, Robert Mintz and Jason Rosoff.

Mark Berman, whose conducting credits include Broadway's Rent, Smokey Joe's Café and Blood Brothers, is musical director. B.H. Barry is fight director. Susan Manikas is stage manager.

The production team includes set designer Michael Kramer, costume designer David Toser, lighting designer Martin E. Vreeland and sound and projection designer Stephen Kunken.

Seeing Stars was part of The York Theatre's Developmental Reading Series earlier this year, before being selected (in a blind jury process) as part of The New York Musical Theatre Festival's 2009 Next Link Project.

Originally from Canada, The Breithaupt Brothers host a regular revue of their songs at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater. Their songs have been featured on Showtime's "The L Word" and have been recorded by Brent Carver, Dione Taylor, Adi Braun, Rikki Rumball, Denzal Sinclaire, Joe Coughlin, and Lorraine Lawson. Don, who was recently honored with a 2009 Emmy Award for outstanding theme song for the Canadian television show "6teen" (Cartoon Network), is based in Toronto; Jeff resides in New York City. Book writer McPherson is a New York based performer and writer whose work has been seen at Joe's Pub, Queen's Theatre in the Park, HERE, New York Theatre Workshop, E.S.T., The Rude Mechanicals and The Workshop Theatre Company and many regional theatres around the country.

Seeing Stars performances will be Oct. 7 at 8 PM, Oct. 10 at 5 PM, Oct. 11 at 4 PM, Oct. 13 at 9 PM, Oct 16 at 9 PM and Oct. 17 at 1 PM.

Tickets, priced at $20, can be purchased online at www.nymf.org or by calling (212) 352-3101. For more information, visit www.NYMF.org/seeingstars or visit seeingstarsthemusical.com.

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