Hammond, Ralston, Green, Champlin, Carroll, Fellner Explore Galaxy Musical in NYC

News   Hammond, Ralston, Green, Champlin, Carroll, Fellner Explore Galaxy Musical in NYC Obie Award winner Donna Lynne Champlin is the title dreamer in the world premiere Off-Broadway musical, Marcy in the Galaxy — the Galaxy Diner, that is — opening April 6 in a production by the Drama Desk-honored Transport Group.
Donna Lynne Champlin in Marcy in the Galaxy.
Donna Lynne Champlin in Marcy in the Galaxy. Photo by Carol Rosegg

Previews began March 28. Marcy in the Galaxy — billed as "a humorous and poignant musical glimpse at what happens when dreams of being a New York artist take longer to come true than planned" — has book, music and lyrics by Nancy Shayne, based on a story by Shayne and Michael Patrick King.

Transport Group artistic director Jack Cummings III directs.

According to Transport Group, "At mid-life, Marcy finds herself alone in the Galaxy Diner — out of money and almost out of hope — in this darkly comic romp through dreams, disappointment, family, first love, and absolutely delicious diner desserts."

Champlin is an Obie Award winner for Transport Group's The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, and appeared in Broadway's Sweeney Todd and Hollywood Arms.

The cast of Marcy in the Galaxy also includes Teri Ralston (original Broadway casts of Stephen Sondheim's Company and A Little Night Music); Janet Carroll (Broadway's Little Women, TV's "Murphy Brown"); Mary-Pat Green (original Broadway cast of Sweeney Todd); Jenny Fellner (Transport Group's Crossing Brooklyn and Broadway's Mamma Mia!); and Jonathan Hammond (Transport Group's The Audience and the national tour of The Light in the Piazza). Transport Group, which presents at 220 East 4th Street (between Avenues A and B) in the East Village, is the winner of a special 2007 Drama Desk Award and a 2007 Obie Award.

Writer Shayne's credits include The Audience (Transport Group, contributed story, music and lyrics); Two Bitter Women in a Coffee Shop (book, music and lyrics, HBO Comedy Festival, directed by Michael Patrick King); "Roseanne's Saturday Night Special" (Fox TV, writer, music and lyrics); "Sex and The City" (seasons five and six, incidental music, lyrics); music for Jerry Stiller's Grammy-nominated audio book "Married to Laughter" (Random House Audio) and more.

Shayne is a founder, along with Lavinia Moyer and Divina Cook, of the now-defunct Attic Theatre in Detroit.

What's the main situation of the show?

Champlin told Playbill.com, "On the surface — it's a story of those people in a diner late at night that you see through the window and think, 'What's their story?' It's the people you never really notice during the day that we stop to take a look at for 90 minutes. And in this case, the main character is a painter in her late thirties on the evening of Jan. 1, taking stock of where she is and where she thought she would be by now. [Director] Jack [Cummings] describes the experience of watching the show as a bit 'voyeuristic' because apparently the audience feels like it's sitting in the diner too and eavesdropping on the action."

Who is Marcy? Champlin said that the character is "absolutely" an artist. She explained, "She's also talented, frustrated, hopeful, bitter, funny, scattered, slightly delusional and 'stuck.' In fact we have a song in the show where Marcy sings 'stuck, stuck, stuck, stuck…' in a round. Ironically, at that moment she's referring to her sister but it becomes clear over the evening that almost everyone is 'stuck' somehow, especially Marcy.

"The trick of course, is to acknowledge you're stuck, figure out why you're stuck and how to get un-stuck.

"Honestly, Marcy's an endless number of adjectives — like we all are. Let's just say, if Marcy ever filled out the eHarmony questionnaire every day for a month? She'd never answer it the same way. Ever. And half the time she'd totally get rejected. Like a lot of 'outside the box' people do."

Marcy is "is everyone who's had a dream, pursued that dream through obstacle after obstacle, and looked around at a certain age and thought, 'this is not where I thought I would be by now.'"

Champlin continued, "I have had the chance to work with some incredibly accomplished people and one of the most surprising things I've learned is that those walls never ever stop coming. No matter who you are, and no matter what you've accomplished, I have yet to meet someone who doesn't still feel like they’re banging their head against some wall over something in their way."

What's Marcy's goal?

Champlin said, "Well, like any artist she wants to just be able to create and not have to worry about anything else. Her surface goal is to not only freely create her art but also to share, show, sell, be celebrated for and make a decent living solely via her art.

"Digging a little deeper, I think her true goal is to just feel good in her own skin. Playing her, sometimes it feels like I've got a sweater on that's too tight, and two minutes later the sweater is four sizes too big. And it's back and forth all night long, depending on what's going on up there, with this 'psychic' sweater that just alternatively squeezes and engulfs. And all Marcy wants is a sweater that fits so well she forgets she's wearing it for a second."

Who is the audience for Marcy in the Galaxy?

"There are multitudes of 'themes' that run through it," Champlin said. "And that's been one of the really fun things to experience with the audiences this past week. Everyone, at every age, has locked into something that’s going on up there. Men, women, young, old, gay, straight, right brained, left brained, creative, mathematical, parents, students…everyone is connecting to this piece — which is so exciting to witness.

"And I'm still discovering new themes myself that bubble to the surface as we progress with the run. The most recent one being that it's not necessarily the huge, obvious traumas that we suffer that create our worst inner saboteurs. Those big blows in life are easy to identify — a death, abuse, catastrophe, etc., and when those milestones happen in your life you pay attention and work through them.

"Another theme to this show is also the juxtaposition of hope and bitterness. Marcy for all intents and purposes is still hopeful about the future. However, at the table next to Marcy there are two older, bitter women and there's clearly a line that you cross in life where there's just no returning from Bitter Land. And I think Marcy looks at them often and thinks, 'just how far away am I from pulling up a chair and getting my mail forwarded?' You know?"

The set design is by Sandra Goldmark; the costume design is by Kathryn Rohe; the lighting design is by R. Lee Kennedy (Drama Desk nominee for The Audience); the sound design is by Michael Rasbury; musical direction, arrangements and orchestrations are by Mark Berman (Broadway's The Boy From Oz); dramaturgy is by Adam R. Perlman; production stage manager is Wendy Patten.

Marcy in the Galaxy plays Thursday through Saturday and Monday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM, and Sunday at 3 PM through April 20.

Tickets are $38 and are available at www.transportgroup.org or by phoning (212) 352-3101; $10 rush tickets are available to students one hour prior to curtain.

For more information about Transport Group and Marcy in the Galaxy, visit www.transportgroup.org.

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Founded in 2001, Transport Group, under the leadership of Jack Cummings III, artistic director, and Lori Finerman, executive director, is a not-for-profit theatre company that develops and produces work by American playwrights and composers with the aim of exploring the American consciousness in the 20th and 21st centuries. Transport Group presented its premiere production in 2002: Thornton Wilder's Our Town, which featured older actors in the roles of Emily and George and a 12-year-old girl as the Stage Manager. Its second production, Requiem for William, an evening of seven seldom produced plays by William Inge, that featured a cast of 26 as well as original songs, premiered in 2003. In 2004 the company presented the first New York revival of Michael John LaChiusa's First Lady Suite, which received rave reviews, played to sold-out houses, and earned two Drama Desk Award nominations including outstanding revival of a musical. Recent productions include the world premiere of the musical The Audience, which featured a cast of 46 actors and earned three Drama Desk Award nominations, including outstanding musical; Normal, a new musical about a mother's battle to save her daughter from anorexia; cul-de-sac, a new play by Tony Award nominee John Cariani; the first New York revival of Tad Mosel's Pulitzer Prize play, All the Way Home; the 50th anniversary, Obie-winning production of William Inge's The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, and the world premiere musical Crossing Brooklyn. Transport Group is the winner of a special 2007 Drama Desk Award for its "breadth of vision and its presentation of challenging productions."

Donna Lynne Champlin and Jenny Fellner in <i>Marcy in the Galaxy</i>.
Donna Lynne Champlin and Jenny Fellner in Marcy in the Galaxy. Photo by Carol Rosegg
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