James Lapine, who directed an earlier revised version of Merrily at La Jolla Playhouse in 1985, will return to the property as director of the concert version of the 1981 commercial flop that is a favorite among Sondheim fans. (There had been talk in recent seasons that Lapine might direct Merrily on Broadway.)
The 19th Encores! season will begin Feb. 8 with Merrily We Roll Along, followed by the rarely seen Pipe Dream (based on the book "Sweet Thursday" by John Steinbeck) on March 28¸ followed by Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on May 9. For the first time, each musical will play for seven performances.
Unrelated to the Encores! Merrily, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park will produce director John Doyle's new production of the show (with actors playing instruments) in 2011-12.
Merrily We Roll Along, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth, "is a musical about friendship and the compromise of youthful ideals, based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart," according to Encores! notes. "Merrily We Roll Along begins in 1980 and moves backward in time, from 1980-1955, telling the story of three friends whose friendship is tested by time, events, ambition and fate. It charts the rise of a songwriting team during the years of Sondheim's own early career, and includes some of his most brilliant and bruising songs." The score includes "Not a Day Goes By," "Old Friends," "Our Time" and "Opening Doors." The officially licensed script is the 1985 rewrite. Performances will play Feb. 8-12, 2012.
"Outcasts yearning for a better life populate the bordellos and flophouses of a 1950s California seaside town" in composer Rodgers and lyricist-librettist Hammerstein's Pipe Dream, based on John Steinbeck's novel "Sweet Thursday" (using some of the same characters from the novel "Cannery Row"). Pipe Dream opened at the Shubert Theatre on Nov. 30, 1955, and ran for 246 performances. It was nominated for nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical. According to Encores!, "Pipe Dream has not been seen on the American stage in more than two decades, owing to a technicality involving the underlying rights." The Rodgers and Hammerstein rarity includes "All at Once You Love Her," "The Next Time It Happens" and the ballad "Everybody's Got a Home but Me." Pipe Dream will run March 28-April 1, 2012. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, adapted from the novel by Anita Loos, has a book by Anita Loos and Joseph Fields, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Leo Robin. "Set in the Roaring Twenties, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes follows the madcap adventures of the original 'dumb blonde,' Lorelei Lee, as she sets sail for Europe with her best friend Dorothy Shaw. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes made a star of Carol Channing on Broadway and later cemented Marilyn Monroe's status as an American film icon and sex symbol in the 1953 screen version." The score includes "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," "Bye, Bye, Baby," "A Little Girl from Little Rock" and "I Love What I'm Doing (When I'm Doing it for Love)." The original production, directed by John C. Wilson and choreographed by Agnes de Mille, opened at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Dec. 8, 1949, and played a total of 740 performances. The show was revived by Tony Randall's National Actors Theater in 1995 and ran for 24 performances. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes will run May 9-13, 2012.
Rob Berman is musical director of Encores! All concert productions will run for seven performances according to the following schedule: Wednesday at 7:30 PM, Thursday and Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM and 8 PM, and Sunday at 2 PM and 7 PM.
New Encores! subscriptions will be available for the first time in three years and can be purchased starting Aug. 1 at the New York City Center Box Office (West 55th Street between 6th and 7th avenues), through CityTix at (212) 581-1212, or online at www.NYCityCenter.org. Single tickets for Encores! 2012 go on sale Oct. 10. Tickets start at $25.
City Center is currently undergoing an extensive renovation and restoration to revitalize and modernize its historic theatre. Designed by Ennead Architects LLP (formerly known as Polshek Partnership Architects), the renovation will preserve and restore the landmark 1923 building's historic features while modernizing and upgrading the facility to create a world-class cultural center. A gala re-opening is scheduled for Oct. 25, 2011.