Tony Award-nominated actor Walter Willison, who earned his Best Featured Actor nomination for the Biblical musical, Two by Two, goes back to the Good Book as the prince of Egypt in Moses, My Love, a new musical opening Off Broadway Oct. 30.
Adapted from the Old Testament by Paul Dick, who also penned the music and lyrics, Moses, My Love, continuing through Nov. 15 at the Judith Anderson Theatre (422 W. 42nd St.), is a serious-minded, through composed musical, Willison told Playbill On-Line Oct. 29.
The post-Apocalyptic setting -- with the 50ish Willison garbed in black Israeli Army pants, combat boots and a ripped-sleeves leather jacket -- is the concept of director Marc Geller, who recently staged Dark of the Moon at Off-Broadway's T. Schreiber Studio.
"I was a little concerned that [because it's a Biblical musical] this would be compared to Two by Two, but it's nothing like Two by Two," Willison said. "They're not even in the same style. He wrote a very literal story, a Biblical pageant, and Marc came in and restructured the entire piece. The score is pop, eclectic, anachronistic, gospel, all kinds of music."
It's still the story of Moses, he insisted. "It's this weird little fun sort of dark piece," Willison said, crediting Geller with enhancing and complementing the work of Dick. Willison was 21 when he played Noah's youngest son, Japeth, opposite Danny Kaye as Noah, in 1970's Two by Two. He sang the show's standout Martin Charnin-Richard Rodgers ballad, "I Do Not Know a Day I Did Not Love You." He played Noah in a revival this past summer in Pennsylvania.
"I thought it would be fun going from playing Noah to playing Moses," said Willison, who is also a librettist, lyricist and cast-album record producer.
Willison's major project after Two by Two was playing the Celebrant in the premiere of Leonard Bernstein's "Mass" at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Willison was also in the original cast of Grand Hotel, as one of the laborers. Toward the end of the show's run, he played the Baron.
Moses, My Love's cast includes David Jordan, a former Javert in a Les Miserables tour, who plays God (who is omnipresent, on stage). Leslie Lankhorst plays the Pharaoh.
The musical includes the Biblical story's major events: Moses' flight from Egypt, the plagues, his parting of the Red Sea and the Ten Commandments.
The show was previously seen, in a separate non-Equity staging, at the Jewish Community House in Bensonhurst, NY.
Librettist-lyricist-composer Dick, of Brooklyn, previously wrote the musicals O'Casey's Knock (about the young Sean O'Casey), Madame Bovary, Anywhere, Anywhere (about gay men in Vietnam), Tania (about Patty Hearst) and Strindberg's Ghost.
The run of Moses, My Love comes a month prior to the holiday release of Dreamworks' first animated feature film, "The Prince of Egypt," recounting the same Bible story, with songs by Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Godspell).
The Moses, My Love cast includes Randyl Appel, Andrew Arrow, Lanie Diamond, Joseph Ditmyer, Mark Enis, Kenneth Fass, Jack Fletcher (Bway's La Strada), Rachel Gottlieb, Genette Lane (Bway's The Rothschilds), Christina Seymour and Lauren Wales. Musical direction is by James Mironchik. Designers are Andrew Cavanaugh Holland (sets), Frank Dendanto III (lighting) and E. Shura Pollatsek (costumes).
For ($12) ticket information, call (212) 279-4200.
-- By Kenneth Jones