When Indiana Repertory Theatre's season closer, Enter the Guardsman, ends its run May 19, workers will begin the process of the final phase of a multimillion renovation of the historic 1927 theatre: The auditorium itself will get a makeover in the summer months prior to a fall unveiling.
New seats, carpeting, sound and lighting system will be added in the Mainstage space, and architectural details, now blocked by panels, will be uncovered. The IRT has a smaller three-quarter venue called the Upperstage, located above the main space. The ornate lobby and other parts of the building were previously refurbished.
Enter the Guardsman, the rarefied, romantic musical written by Indiana Repertory Theatre "associate artist" Scott Wentworth and based on Ferenc Molnar's The Guardsman, is the final production of IRT's 2000-2001 season. It began April 25 with a New York cast that included Brian and Diane Sutherland, the married acting couple playing a married acting couple in the show. The Sutherlands now embark on a national tour of Guys and Dolls as Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown.
The stylish Guardsman — recalling the tone and style of both Kiss Me, Kate and A Little Night Music — concerns a husband-wife acting team whose marriage has grown cold. The husband impersonates a swashbuckling soldier who send roses to his wife and meets her in a tryst — in the hope she'll profess her love to her husband. Only a handful of regional theatres have rights to the intimate show.
Sutherland appeared in Broadway's The Sound of Music and 1776 revivals and Diane Sutherland (formerly Diane Fratantoni) was Amalia in Broadway's She Loves Me revival. They play the show's "Actor" and "Actress." Wentworth penned the libretto, Marion Adler (his wife) wrote the lyrics and Craig Bohmler wrote the score. Adler and Wentworth have acted together at the resident professional company of Indianapolis, including a run of Candida. Enter the Guardsman was nominated for the Best Musical Olivier Award in 1998 after a London staging. The show had its Off-Broadway debut in 2000, but there is no cast album in the U.S.
Karen Azenberg directs and choreographs. The company includes Jeff Talbott (Off-Broadway's Home of the Brave) as the Playwright, Anne Lauterbach (who'll appear in the summer tour of the new musical, Casper) as Wardrobe, Mary Jo McConnell (who toured in The Phantom of the Opera) as the Dresser, Mark David Kaplan (of New York and regional Forbidden Broadway gigs) as Wigs and Justin Brill (who appeared in Alabama Shakespeare's Guys and Dolls) in the role of the Assistant Stage Manager. Helen Gregory conducts a six piece orchestra.
Azenberg previously helmed IRT's Same Time Next Year, Guys and Dolls, The Gift of the Magi and Biloxi Blues. Designers are Russell Metheny (set), Gail Brassard (costumes) and Kendall Smith (lighting).
Official opening was April 27.
The 2001-2002 IRT season — the nonprofit troupe's 30th — includes the world premiere of playwright-in-residence James Still's Looking Over the President's Shoulder; Peter Shaffer's Amadeus; Tom Haas' adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol; a world premiere adaptation of Sister Carrie, a play by Charles Smith adapted from Theodore Dreiser's first novel; The Color of Justice, by Cheryl L. Davis, the story of a 9-year-old African American girl in Topeka, KS, in 1954 and her fight to attend a public school near her home; Yasmina Reza's Tony Award-winning comedy, Art, adapted by Christopher Hampton; John Pielmeier's Agnes of God; a version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar geared for youth and first-time Shakespeare-goers; Eugene O'Neill's highly-idealized vision of his own New England boyhood, Ah, Wilderness!
James Still's Looking Over the President's Shoulder, gets its world premiere, Oct. 30-Dec. 22, on the IRT Upperstage. The play focuses on the 21 years that Indiana native Alonzo Fields spent in the White House as the Chief Butler, and "the passing parade of history" he witnessed. According to IRT, Fields was the grandson of a freed slave whose family had settled in Lyles Station in Gibson County. His family moved to Indianapolis when he was a young man. He went on to become a musician, singer, teacher, businessman, baseball player in the Negro Baseball League, a boxer, opera singer and, from 1932 1953, the Chief Butler in the White House to presidents Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower. James Still is IRT's playwright-in-residence and previously penned The Velocity of Gary and IRT's 2000 farm drama, Amber Waves. He was named the New Voices in American Theatre playwright for the 19th annual William Inge Theatre Festival in 2000.
IRT is at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN. For information, call (317) 635-5252, or visit www.indianarep.com.
— By Kenneth Jones