Shreveport isn't an ordinary stop on a new musical's journey toward the Great White Way, but since much of the story of Evangeline, by Jamie Wax and Paul Taranto, takes place in Louisiana, a concert reading with the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra has some logic to it. Conducted by Taranto, the reading, Aug. 28, will feature a 100-person chorus, a children's choir and guest vocalists Melanie Couvillon, Rod Weber and Ana Maria Andricain.
The latter recently starred as Eva Peron in another bound-for-Broadway show, a revival of Evita that toured several cities but never made it past Boston. Andricain already has Broadway credits, however, having played Belle in Beauty and the Beast. She also played Esmeralda in Dennis De Young's version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Weber appeared in Broadway's The Civil War, Couvillon has several Long Island, NY, theatre credits.
The "Evangeline" story is best known through Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem of the same name, but composer and co-lyricist Taranto didn't think of adapting the tale into a musical until he saw a traveling children's theatre troupe perform a play about the Acadian expulsion of the mid-1700s -- that's when 1,600 Frenchmen living in exile in France were invited by Spain to settle in Louisiana (then owned by Spain).
In the poem and musical, Evangeline and Gabriel are young lovers whose engagement is broken off by the deportation. As Evangeline tries to find the whereabouts of her beloved Gabriel, the story moves from Nova Scotia to Louisiana to Philadelphia.
Taranto began the Evangeline project in early 1998. He asked his friend Wax to collaborate on it, but the latter couldn't make the time commitment. Instead, Wax suggested mutual friend Danny Tiberghein, who worked on an outline with Taranto. Just before the outline was finished, Tiberghein became a victim of a violent crime. At his memorial, Taranto and Wax vowed to finish the musical. Another outline was drafted, and by November 1998, the piece was ready for its first public performance: at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, LA. Following the paths of musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Frank Wildhorn, Taranto and Wax made sure to record the score to Evangeline (available via by writing to P.O. Box 77333, Baton Rouge, LA 70879). Recorded at TechnoSound Studios in Baton Rouge in January 1999, the CD features Andre Chapoy and Don Hill (both performing in the upcoming concert) as well as Andricain -- a high school friend of Wax's. Evangeline enjoyed a previous concert performance, Aug. 12, at the Heymann Center in Lafayette, LA. The Aug. 28 Shreveport concert is a part of "Francofete," a year-long celebration of 300 years of French influence in Louisiana.
For tickets or more information on Evangeline check out the website: http://www.evangelinethemusical.com or call (318) 226-8555.
-- By David Lefkowitz