EXCLUSIVE: Death Takes a Holiday Will Get a Cast Album; Kevin Earley Will Sing Lead Role

News   EXCLUSIVE: Death Takes a Holiday Will Get a Cast Album; Kevin Earley Will Sing Lead Role
 
Fans of composer-lyricist Maury Yeston's penchant for lush, romantic theatre music — think Nine and Titanic — will be glad to hear that the score of his new musical Death Takes a Holiday will be preserved on an original cast album.

Jill Paice in Death Takes a Holiday.
Jill Paice in Death Takes a Holiday. Photo by Joan Marcus

PS Classics, the label dedicated to the heritage of Broadway and American Popular Song, will record and release the original Off-Broadway cast album of the Roundabout Theatre Company's current world-premiere production on Aug. 8 in Manhattan. PS Classics co-founder and album producer Tommy Krasker anticipates an early fall release.

Kevin Earley, who recently succeeded British star Julian Ovenden in the role of Death/Prince Sirki, owing to Ovenden's vocal illness, will be heard on the album.

PS Classics is currently accepting pre-orders for the disc at psclassics.com.

Death Takes a Holiday, with songs by two-time Tony Award winner Yeston and libretto by Tony winners Thomas Meehan and Peter Stone, drawing on the Italian play by Albert Casella, is playing at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre/Laura Pels Theatre through Sept. 4.

Kevin Stites is the musical supervisor/musical director. Orchestrations are by Tony Award winner Larry Hochman (The Book of Mormon). Yeston's relationship with Krasker goes far back, the songwriter told Playbill.com. Krasker was a student of Yeston's at Yale University and was rehearsal pianist of the original Broadway production of Nine, and would later produce the original cast albums of Titanic and the 2003 revival of Nine. PS Classics also released an album called "The Maury Yeston Songbook" and a disc of Yeston's song cycle "December Songs."

Yeston said, "I am so grateful for this continuing musical collaboration and, as ever, I so look forward to placing my work once again in his hands."

Death Takes a Holiday concerns a Grim Reaper who is curious to taste the human experience, so he takes the form of a Russian Prince and crashes an Italian villa packed with rich folk — including a young woman named Grazia Lamberti.

Earley's Broadway credits include Ernest Defarge in A Tale of Two Cities, Trevor Graydon in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Les Miserables (also on tour).

 

Matt Cavenaugh
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Previews began June 10. Opening night was July 21. Ovenden played most of the show's press nights, and was well-reviewed by critics. His illness prevented him from performing the opening night.

The question of why mortals cling so passionately to life hangs in the air of the new musical. The wealthy, life-loving friends, family and lovers who populate an Italian villa between the World Wars include Jill Paice as Grazia Lamberti, the object of Death's desire, with Max von Essen, Matt Cavenaugh, Simon Jones, Linda Balgord, Rebecca Luker, Michael Siberry, Mara Davi and more.

According to Roundabout, "In Death Takes a Holiday, it's just after the first World War and the loneliest of souls arrives at an Italian villa disguised as a handsome young Prince, and for the first time experiences the joys and heartbreaks of life. But when he unexpectedly falls in love with a newly engaged young woman (played by Jill Paice), the mysterious stranger discovers that love may in fact be stronger than death."

The project began as a collaboration between librettist Stone (1776) and composer-lyricist Yeston, but following Stone's 2003 death, Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) joined the project as librettist. Stone and Meehan share book credit on the show.

Read the special Playbill.com feature about the creation of Death Takes a Holiday. Tony Award winner Doug Hughes (Doubt, Roundabout's Broadway production of Mrs. Warren's Profession starring Cherry Jones) directs.

In the days leading up to the first preview, Yeston told Playbill.com, "What a joy and a privilege to be about to preview a new musical in New York City, and to do so in front of the greatest, most useful and informative audience in the world — if we have the wisdom to listen to them! Revisiting and refining every element of the show will be our task, and I really look forward to it. And to have had the benefit of the collaborative work of both Peter Stone and Thomas Meehan is more than any composer could ever dream of."

The cast features Linda Balgord (Contessa Danielli), Matt Cavenaugh (Eric Fenton), Mara Davi (Alice), Joy Hermalyn (Cora), Jay Jaski (Lorenzo), Simon Jones (Dr. Dario Albione), Rebecca Luker (as matriarch Duchess Lamberti), Patricia Noonan (Sophia), Julian Ovenden (Prince Sirki / Death), Jill Paice (Grazia), Michael Siberry (as patriarch Duke Lamberti), Alexandra Socha (Daisy Fenton), Don Stephenson (as butler Fidele), Max Von Essen (Corrado Montelli).

The creative team includes Kevin Stites (musical direction and supervision), Peter Pucci (choreography), Derek McLane (sets), Catherine Zuber (costumes), Kenneth Posner (lights), Jon Weston (sound) and Tom Watson (hair & wigs).

Paice starred in Broadway's The Woman in White, The 39 Steps and Curtains, and was Scarlett O'Hara in the London musical Gone With the Wind. She recently starred in the Virginia Stage world premiere of the new Bruce Hornsby musical SCKBSTD.

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Kevin Earley and Jill Paice on opening night.
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Casella's play, rewritten for the American stage by Walter Ferris, was originally produced on Broadway by the Shubert brothers during the Great Depression.

Yeston previously said the piece is "an intensely romantic love story — deeply moving and life affirming." He called the show a "chamber musical."

Death tells of the Grim Reaper visiting earth to discover why people are so fearful of him. Or, as Stone once said in a Playbill.com interview, "What can life be that they cling to it so?"

Death becomes a houseguest at a swanky nobleman's home where an engagement is being celebrated. And that's where he falls in love.

"It's very lush and romantic and amusing in many aspects, even though it deals with a somewhat serious subject," Stone previously told Playbill.com.

There have been movie versions of the property, including a 1934 picture starring Fredric March and "Meet Joe Black" (1998), starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins.

"Each time they remake it," Stone said of the film versions, "it's farther from the original. We're keeping the locale: Italy, just after the first World War. It's a small musical: 10 principals, all of them important, no chorus." There are four servants in the mix as well, Playbill.com previously reported, bumping the cast size to a relatively intimate 14.

Roundabout previously produced the 2003 Broadway revival of Nine by songwriter Yeston.

Todd Haimes, artistic director of Roundabout, said in a statement, "Maury Yeston and Peter Stone began working on Death Takes a Holiday several years before it came to Roundabout. Peter was one of the great librettists in musical theatre, and, after his death, it was fortunate that Tom Meehan, one of the best in the business, took over the book writing duties. It was in 2008 that Tom and Maury approached me about working on the show at Roundabout, and I suggested Doug Hughes for the project. We ended up doing a series of developmental readings with the team over the past two years, and I think we're all agreed that the show is now absolutely ready to get on its feet..."

Tickets ($76-$86) are on sale at Roundabout Ticket Services at (212) 719-1300, online at www.roundabouttheatre.org or at the Laura Pels Theatre at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre box office (111 W. 46 Street).

View highlights from the show:

 

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