Stafford Arima, whose re-imagined Carrie was given an Off-Broadway life last season, directs Bare, a book musical that features music by Damon Intrabartolo, a book and lyrics by Jon Hartmere and additional songs by Hartmere and Lynne Shankel (Altar Boyz, Cry-Baby, Company). Intrabartolo is not attached to the current Off-Broadway staging, which began previews Nov. 19.
"The biggest change [is] having more space to explore the characters," explained Hartmere as to why the work is no longer sung through. "To know these characters a little bit better… you just need more room — you need more room for book scenes, and I personally just wanted to get under the hood and investigate a little bit further."
Aside from the addition of a fleshed-out libretto, the work — a story of discovery, acceptance and love — features a slew of new songs ("A Million Miles From Heaven," which replaces the show's original opening; the standout duet "You Don't Know"; a comical number entitled "Best Friend"; and the second-act ballad "You're Not Alone," among others), the addition and subtraction of characters central to its core, and a plot twist that involves the use of an iPhone photograph and the spread of information via technology. Read more about the Off-Broadway "revisal" of Bare here.
Joining Trensch (Wicked) and Hite, who makes his Off-Broadway debut, as the main students at St. Cecilia's Boarding School are Elizabeth Judd (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) as Ivy, a misunderstood transfer student; Gerard Canonico (Spring Awakening) as Matt, who longs for a steady relationship with Ivy; and Barrett Wilbert Weed (Lysistrata Jones) as Nadia, the group's always-discontented drug dealer who is also the sister of Jason.
New to the plot are the characters of Father Mike, played by Jerold E. Solomon (South Pacific), and Sister Joan, played by Missi Pyle (Boeing-Boeing), who oversee the high school's production of Romeo and Juliet. They replace similar characters from the 2004 staging — the Priest and Sister Chantelle, respectively. "I was not aware that this show even existed until I got an audition for it," admitted Hite, who stars as Jason, the teenage "golden boy" struggling with his sexual identity. "Stafford is an actor's director. He loves having conversation[s] and building this character — we built it together. And, Jon has written it so beautifully on the page. I think the biggest challenge for me is really getting out of the way of the words. The words say enough… Jon has written [Jason] with this true feeling and soul that is quite heartbreaking to work on."
|photo by Chad Batka|
Unlike Hite, Trensch — whose character mirrors the Juliet to Jason's Romeo — was familiar with the work. "I went to a performing arts high school, so I was surrounded by theatre nerds, and we got our hands on the demo for that original [Off-Broadway] production, so I fell in love with the music back in 2004," he said. "It now is a book musical. We have so much text to work with, and this relationship has just gotten to be such a huge, amazing story."
Rounding out the cast are Casey Garvin (West Side Story national tour) as Zack, Ariana Groover as Vanessa, Sara Kapner (Hollywood Arms) as Madison, Alice Lee (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) as Diane, Justin Gregory Lopez ("Law & Order: SVU") as Beto, Michael Tacconi as Nick and Alex Wyse (Lysistrata Jones) as Alan. Anthony Festa and Megan Lewis (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) are swings.
Emmy Award nominee Travis Wall ("So You Think You Can Dance") provides movement for the piece. He explained that it's "expressive [and] definitely not a dance show… I was one of these characters five years ago, and [I remember] how dark I felt and how much I was trying to just get someone to hear me. I couldn't talk to anybody, and no one would listen to me, and [I was] always reaching out for that person who's not there, so I definitely pulled from that."
Tony Award-winning scenic designer Donyale Werle (Peter and the Starcatcher, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) has painted the world of Bare in over 14,000 four-by-four inch Instagram pictures from the musical's fans as well as the cast and creatives. Other creative team members include costume designer Tristan Raines (Tribes, Murder in the First), Tony Award-winning lighting designer Howell Binkley (Jersey Boys, Memphis) and sound designer Keith Caggiano (Soul of Shaolin).
Here's how producers Randy Taradash, Paul Boskind and Martian Entertainment and Gregory Rae bill Bare: "Set in a co-ed Catholic boarding school, Bare explores the subject of teens exposed to the issues of identity, sexuality and religion. With provocative lyrics and a thrilling rock score, the musical demonstrates how today’s generation is forced to navigate, for the first time, the tightrope between adolescence and adulthood and how far they will go to keep their world intact."
Throughout the show's run, the production hosts a series of post-performance TalkOUTs with leaders of the LGBT community. The TalkOUT series began on Bare's first preview with Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student who died from a hate crime in Laramie, WY, in 1998. Click here for more information on Bare's TalkOUTs.
Bare had its world premiere at the Hudson Theater in Los Angeles, CA, where it began performances Oct. 14, 2000, and ran through Feb. 25, 2001. Following the Los Angeles production, Bare began its run at the American Theatre of Actors (Chernuchin Theatre) March 25, 2004. It opened April 19, 2004, and played through May 27, 2004. Bare has since had more than 100 productions worldwide.
New World Stages is located at 340 West 50th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenue). Tickets for Bare are available at Telecharge.com or by calling (212) 239-6200.