So popular was the May 14-18 Reprise! concert staging of Promises, Promises at UCLA's Freud Playhouse, they're bringing it back, cast essentially intact, Aug. 14-24 .
Directed by Stuart Ross (creator of Forever Plaid), the cast features Jason Alexander, Alan Thicke, Jean Smart (Last Summer At Bluefish Cove), Karen Fineman, Linda Hart, Barney Martin, Paul Kreppel, Charlie Robinson, and Fred Willard (of "Fernwood Tonight" fame). Alexander is set to do one more season of TV's "Seinfeld," which features Martin as Jerry's father. Thicke (of TV's "Thicke Of The Night"), plays J.D. Sheldrake; Fineman (City Of Angels) plays Fran Kubelik. Alan Rachins, of TV's "L.A. Law," was in the May mounting but could not do the August stint; his replacement has not yet been cast.
Taking its cue from New York's highly successful "Encores!" series, which presents classic or neglected Broadway musicals in semi-staged, concert form (and which also reprised Promises this spring with Martin Short), the Los Angeles theatre company, Reprise!, has done the same in a three-show series that started May 14 with Promises, Promises.
Like its NY counterparts, Reprise! also builds its shows around star performers -- such as Jason Alexander, Joel Grey and Tyne Daly. Each production in the 3-show season will get six performances. Here's the rest of the debut roster:
Finian's Rainbow, Burton Lane & Yip Harburg's musical fable, featuring cabaret artist Andrea Marcovicci. Keith Carradine (Will Rogers Follies) had also been scheduled but bowed out due to a television commitment.
Co-written with Fred Saidy, Rainbow tells of an Irish leprechaun confronting the bigotry of a small town. Songs include "How Are Things In Glocca Morra?," "Look To The Rainbow," and "Old Devil Moon." (Sept. 24 28).
Wonderful Town, the Leonard Bernstein, Fields & Chodorov and Comden & Green musical comedy, starring Tyne Daly (Gypsy).
This 1953 Tony-winning show is based on Ruth McKenney's stories, which served as the basis for the Fields & Chodorov play, My Sister Eileen. (Nov. 19-23).
Supporting roles have yet to be announced for the musicals, which will feature music direction by Peter Matz. Matz, an Emmy-winner for his work on two classic Barbara Streisand TV specials, began his career writing orchestrations, arrangements and dance music for Harold Arlen's House Of Flowers and Jamaica. Other Broadway efforts included arrangements on No Strings and Hallelujah, Baby!. Matz told the Los Angeles Times he plans to use 8 instrumentalists for Promises, Promises, playing "the main parts of the original orchestration, with some electronic augmentation on keyboards." In the fall, he hopes to use 14 or 15 musicians and an all-acoustic sound for Finian's Rainbow, and a 12-piece jazz band for Wonderful Town.
Said producing artistic director Marcia Seligson of "Reprise!: Broadway's Best In Concert," "I have had a passion for Broadway musicals my entire life, but many of the classics I have loved and wanted to experience again have not been revived...because of the huge expense involved. Following the lead of the very successful Encores! Series in New York, we are creating a theatre company in Los Angeles to bring these wonderful shows to life again. In Southern California, there is a vast pool of film and television actors with musical theatre backgrounds who would love to perform in these shows, but their schedules will not permit a long run or tour. Reprise! will fill the need for these performers."
"We are also committed to creating a new, young audience for musicals," Seligson said, "[and] for the future, we also intend to give a voice to new musical theatre writers and composers by showcasing new shows and works in progress."
Productions will be "semi-staged," Seligson told Don Shirley of the L.A. Times, "not a nightclub act or a revue." At least some of the actors will carry scripts, but they'll also move around the stage. They'll wear costumes, but there will be no costume changes. Dance numbers will be choreographed, and there'll be some scenery, but it will be "simple and pared down."
For information on subscriptions ($95-110) and single tickets ($35-$40) to Reprise!, at the UCLA-Freud Playhouse, call (310) 825-2101.
--By David Lefkowitz