Time After Time, a new musical based on the time-travel novel about H.G. Wells chasing Jack the Ripper from 1893 London to present-day America, will get a workshop and reading Oct. 27-Nov. 2 as part of the Pittsburgh CLO/Carnegie Mellon University New Works Project, in Pittsburgh.
New York librettist-lyricist Stephen Cole and composer Jeffrey Saver have been working on the project in recent years, but this will be the first public airing of it — a chance for them to gauge success of this draft of the script. Van Kaplan, Pittsburgh CLO producer and artistic director is the attached producer of the project.
The musical is based on the Karl Alexander book that inspired the popular 1979 movie starring Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen.
"I knew the movie," Cole told Playbill On-Line. "My first idea, way back when, was doing something with time travel, and then I thought about H.G. Wells' 'Time Machine.' And then I saw the movie again and thought this was too good."
The writers, who have also adapted the novel, "Dodsworth," for the musical stage, snagged the rights to Alexander's book. "We were lucky with the rights — the author and the agent have been wonderful over the years and waiting for us to do it," Cole said. The plot concerns teacher, inventor and future science fiction writer Wells creating a time machine and chasing a friend, who turns out to be Jack the Ripper, into the future (New York City, 2003, instead of San Francisco of the book and film). There, he meets a contemporary woman, Amy, and falls in love, in a story that is part fish-out-of-water yarn, part thriller and part musical romance.
In the musical and the book, Cole said, "Wells believes the future will be a Utopia, and he finds out it's not, and that love is the only lasting thing in the world. He learns a few things from Jack the Ripper, too — that evil and good co exist. He thought in the world of the future that evil would be bred out."
Just as the plot mixes time periods, Saver's score has a traditional 1890s quality contrasted with a contemporary pop sound, Cole said.
Lyricist-librettist Cole may be best known for penning After the Fair (with composer Matthew Ward), seen at York Theatre Company and produced in London, and the Kleban Award-winning musical Night of the Hunter (with composer Claibe Richardson) musical. He and Ward also wrote Casper, the Musical.
In addition to writing Dodsworth and specialty material with Cole, composer Saver is a Broadway musical director who has worked on more than a dozen Broadway shows, including the current Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman, the original Into the Woods, The Rink and Sunday in the Park With George.
The company of the reading is made up of students from CMU's prestigious musical theatre department.
The workshop is directed by Jason Coll, a CMU alum and free-lancer with Pittsbrugh CLO, the well-known summer theatre founded in 1946.
The Nov. 2 public performance of Time After Time is at the Phillip Chosky Theater, Purnell Center for the Arts, Carnegie Mellon University.
The show is not to be confused with the Jule Styne song, "Time After Time" or the Jack Finney novel, "Time and Again" (which is also a musical by Walter Edgar Kennon) or the beloved time-travel film romance, "Somewhere in Time."
A collaborative effort established in 2001, "the CLO/CMU New Works Project encourages the development and refinement of New Works of the American Musical Theater," according to Pittsburgh CLO. "By utilizing the resources of both the Pittsburgh CLO and Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama, this program offers a unique opportunity for writers, lyricists, composers, directors, and actors from both the academic and professional worlds to enter the collaborative process, working side by side on new musicals. Scripts are selected by the members of both Pittsburgh CLO and CMU and successful staged readings and workshops in this project may go on to developmental productions at CMU or productions by Pittsburgh CLO."
— By Kenneth Jones