Page confirmed Jan. 3 that he will play the deliciously pretentious classical director-actor-producer Jeffrey Cordova in the new stage version of the M-G-M movie musical, "The Band Wagon." The re-named Dancing in the Dark (also featuring Tony Award-winner Beth Leavel and Adam Heller) will make its world premiere at The Old Globe in San Diego March 4-April 13.
There, director Gary Griffin (The Color Purple), librettist Douglas Carter Beane (The Little Dog Laughed) and company will shake out their new take on the picture that gave the world the anthem "That's Entertainment!" — which famously boasted the line about how "a ghost and a prince meet, and everyone ends in mincemeat" — which Page will get to sing in the show.
Jack Buchanan originated the role of Jeffrey in the 1953 movie. Page has one foot in the classical world (he's a favorite at The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC, and starred in Broadway's Julius Caesar) and another in popular musical theatre (he was a menacing, sonorous Scar in The Lion King and played incandescent Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast for three years).
"[Jeffrey Cordova] is very like me in a strange way, in the sense that he's this classical actor — that's where he's spent the bulk of his career — and he ends up doing a song-and-dance show," Page told Playbill.com.
In the film and stage show, Jeffrey aims to take a light and breezy Comden-and-Green-style musical comedy and turn it into a turgid Faust-inspired musical drama. Cue the egg-laying. "What he wants is to create great art," said Page. "He just doesn't realize that great art can be this great big frothy musical."
Page said he's excited that Beane has "deepened" the film's characters and relationships and given them back stories. One of the revelations Beane has cooked up, Page said, is that ascoted Jeffrey actually started out a song-and-dance man, "but he began playing classical roles to legitimize himself."
In the current draft of the show, Jeffrey also gets to sing and dance the classic Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz number, "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan" (as Buchanan did, with Fred Astaire in the original).
The challenge, Page agreed, was to make sure that Dancing in the Dark doesn't squarely slap legit, classical theatre in the face; there should be a place for both high art and pop art.
"I guess what it's saying is that you can't eat caviar and truffles every night," Page offered. "You've gotta have some popcorn…"
Meanwhile, Page said he's excited that his Shakespeare-oriented three-character memory play, Swansong, seen at Lucille Lortel's White Barn, Off-Broadway and regionally, will get its West Coast premiere Jan. 7-23 by the Equity troupe Seattle Shakespeare Company in Washington state. Page was born in Spokane and raised in Oregon. Stephanie Shine will direct the comic tale, "in which Shakespeare has been dead for seven years and the public has all but forgotten him."
According to Seattle Shakespeare, "On orders from King James, Ben Jonson must compose a poem introducing the first collection (First Folio) of his friend's great plays while wrestling with feelings of guilt, envy, and the fear that history will forget his own work." It's billed as "a story of love, loss, and regeneration that allows us to imagine one of the most extraordinary friendships of all time." The play shows the "early successes and frustrations of two young artists learning their craft."
For more information, visit www.seattleshakespeare.org. For information about Page, visit www.PatrickPageOnline.com.