Splendora, the musical about a man returning to his hometown as a woman, will close Off-Broadway March 26 at the Chelsea Playhouse, after 9 previews and 33 regular performances.
The Illyria Theatre's production, based on a cult novel, began Feb. 8 and opened Feb. 17. Drag chanteuse Varla Jean Merman's Enough About Me: An Unauthorized Biography, which played in tandem with Splendora, continues indefinitely at the Chelsea Playhouse 8 PM Thursdays, 11 PM Fridays-Saturdays and 7 PM Sundays.
In Splendora, an outcast who left his Texas hometown 15 years before returns as a woman -- singing, no less -- in the newly-revised New York City staging of the 1995 musical.
Peter Webb, Stephen Hoffman and Mark Campbell penned the tuner, which won the Richard Rodgers Production Award and earned two Drama Desk nominations several years ago. The show was first produced at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, NY, in 1995 and subsequently at the American Place Theatre. A revised revival by Illyria Theatre Company had a limited run in fall 1999 at Off-Off-Broadway's Pantheon Theatre. That version is now seen at The Chelsea Playhouse.
Donna Drake (of the original cast of A Chorus Line) directs Splendora, which is drawn from Edward Swift's 1978 novel (a cult favorite) about effeminate Timothy John Coldridge, who leaves Splendora, TX, only to come back in a more socially-acceptable guise: as Miss Jessica Gatewood, a woman who runs the county bookmobile.
The cast includes Shannon Carson, Culver Casson, Mark Cortale (as Timothy), Teri Dale Hansen (as Miss Jessica), Tod Mason, Susan Roberts, Carol Tammen and Kristine Zbornik. In the musical's theatrical conceit, Timothy and Jessica appear on stage at the same time, exploring the dual nature of the character.
Designers are Jim Boutin (set), Susan Hamburger (lighting) and Caroline Birks (costumes). Jeffrey Biering is musical director, Ann Gerschefski is musical supervisor.
Ilyria Theatre is a nonprofit company devoted to reviving musicals that have "pushed traditional boundaries," according to a statement, and staging new works. Splendora is produced in association with Peak Performance Productions, Inc.
Tickets are $35. Chelsea Playhouse is at 125 W. 22nd Street in Manhattan. For information, call (212) 307-4100.
Meanwhile, actor Jeffery T. Roberson bills his Varlan Jean Merman creation as "rumored to be the illegitimate love child of Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine."
-- By Kenneth Jones