John Glover may not exude sunny warmth in one's memory of the actor (although one half of him surely did in his Tony and Obie Award-winning turn as the very different twin Jeckyll brothers in Terrence McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion!), but he will be the creator of hundreds of fabulous children's tales in American Conservatory Theatre's new production of Frank Loesser's Hans Christian Andersen. The world premiere Sebastian Barry adaptation of the 1952 film begins performances Aug. 31 for a run through Oct. 8. Opening night is Sept. 7.
In the musical, Glover will rise from the poverty of Andersen's youth to great renown just through the magic of his tales. His fairy stories -- "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," "The Little Match Girl," "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Emperor's New Clothes" -- play out in puppet and person form alongside a biography of the Danish writer. Much flying and magic is promised in this new version.
Glover most recently appeared Off-Broadway in the U.S. premiere of Brian Friel's Give Me Your Answer, Do! at the Roundabout. Other credits include Lips Together, Teeth Apart, Henceforward, Tartuffe and The Traveler with film roles in movies from "Annie Hall" and "Julia" to "Payback" and "Batman: The Animated Series," where he voiced the Riddler and his alter ego, Edward Nygma.
The Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) score, performed by Danny Kaye in the film, includes "Thumbelina," "The Ugly Duckling," "Wonderful Copenhagen" and "No Two People." These tunes will be adapted and arranged by Richard Peaslee with orchestrations by Michael Starobin.
Bookwriter Barry is best known in America for his The Steward of Christendom and Our Lady of Sligo, both produced Off-Broadway as well as in major productions in London and Dublin. His second novel, "The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty," was published in the U.S. last year. Putting Loesser and Barry on stage is music-theatre innovator Martha Clarke, whose visually strong work has included The Garden of Earthly Delights, Vienna: Lusthaus, Miracolo d'Amore and Alice's Adventures Underground. Both director and choreographer for Hans Christian Andersen, Clarke's dance background began as a founding member of Pilobolus Dance Theatre.
Joining Glover in the cast are George Hall (Grandfather), Jarlath Conroy (Father), John Christopher Jones (Schoolmaster), Rob Besserer (Shadow), Karen Trott (Mother), Jenny Sterlin (Witch), Teri Hansen (Jenny Lind) and Galina Alexandrova (Ballerina). The ensemble features Ian Wolff, Jula Mattison, Katie Green, Felix Blaska, Alexander Proia, Shen Wei, Dashiell Eaves (1776, The Sound of Music), Marie-Christine Mouis, Erica Staurt and Paola Styron.
Hans Christian Andersen's design team includes Broadway's Paul Gallo (lighting), 2000 Tony nominee Jane Greenwood (costumes), Robert Israel (sets) and Garth Hemphill (sound). Roman Paska designed the puppets.
Tickets are $55-$14. American Conservatory Theatre's Geary Theater is located at 415 Geary Street. For reservations, call (415) 749-2250. American Conservatory Theatre is on the web at http://www.act-sfbay.org.
-- By Christine Ehren