The show has a book by Russ Alben and John Sparks, lyrics by Alben, music by Jerry Hart and musical direction and arrangements by Gerald Sternbach. West Coast Jewish Theatre artistic director Herb Isaacs directs; Darin Anthony produces. Opening will be March 27.
According to the producers, "The Smartest Man in the World is a world-premiere musical that examines the human side of Albert Einstein. It tells his life story in a charming and humorous way, exploring his complex relationships with the women in his life while the world was celebrating his outstanding achievements."
The cast is headed by Alan Safier as Einstein with Dani Shear, Gail Bianchi, Terri Homberg-Olsen, Susan Brindley, John Combs, Albert Owens, Amy Reiss and Aaron Jacobs.
The creative team will include set designer Sheldon Metz, lighting designer J. Kent Inasy, costume designer Cynthia Herteg, sound designer Stafford Floyd, assistant director Jonathan Levit and stage manager Harold Wolf. Lyricist and co-book writer Alben is a longtime ad man known for his Timex Watches campaign: "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking." He wrote and produced the New York World's Fair children's album and developed fundraising shows for non-profit groups.
Co-book writer Sparks earned an MFA in Playwriting at UCLA while he was a member of the BMI musical theatre workshop under the direction of Lehman Engel. He currently serves as the Artistic Director of Theatre Building Chicago and The Academy for New Musical Theater in Los Angeles, and he directs workshops for writers of musical theatre (patterned after the BMI-Lehman Engel Workshop) in both cities. He wrote music and lyrics for the musical Babes in Barns, which premiered at New Tuners in 1984 (it ran for six months). He wrote the lyrics to Hans Brinker, which ran for six holiday seasons at Theatre Building Chicago and for which he and composer Philip Seward received an After Dark Award. New Tuners Theatre commissioned John, along with collaborators Ken Stone and Jan Powell, to write Cashel Byron, for which the authors received a grant from the Frederick Loewe Trust, awarded by the National Alliance for Musical Theatre. The Arresting Dilemma of Mr. K, his adaptation of Kafka's novel "The Trial" with composer-lyricist Jon Steinhagen, premiered in a studio production at the Stages 2004 festival of new musicals at Theatre Building Chicago. He is currently working on an adaptation of Wycherly's The Country Wife and Wilde's An Ideal Husband.
Composer Hart began his music activity playing piano in a succession of dances, weddings and bar mitzvahs in Montreal, where he was born and raised. His summers were spent as music director at Camp Hiawatha where he wrote and directed the music for two original musical comedies each summer. At McGill University, he wrote music for four successive Red and White Revues, including Wry & Ginger, for which he was musical director. He has been a finalist in the CBC Song Market songwriting competition and written numerous songs for special events in the community both in Montreal and in Los Angeles where he has lived since the early '70s. His chance meeting with Russ Alben resulted in their friendship and the collaboration on The Smartest Man in the World.
Pico Playhouse is located at 10508 West Pico Blvd in Los Angeles. For more information visit www.westcoastjewishtheatre.org or call (323) 860-6620.
A non-profit corporation founded in 1993, West Coast Jewish Theatre" is devoted to the quality production of dramatic and comedic plays, musical theatre, revues and special performances that portray Jewish history, philosophy and culture. While they do present well known works, they especially seek out new and contemporary playwrights whose plays deal with Jewish themes. Another objective is to provide young people with programs and workshops to experience the lore of theatre. An important element of their mission is to communicate to the non-Jewish community the unique aspects of Jewish culture and art."