Johnny Guitar to Strum in Century Center Starting March 4

News   Johnny Guitar to Strum in Century Center Starting March 4 As first reported by Playbill On-Line,Johnny Guitar, a new musical based on the cult classic western, will hang its hat Off-Broadway in 2004. The New York Times reported Nov. 28 that the show's home will be the Center Center for the Performing Arts. Previews begin March 4.

Casting is yet to be announced.

The show, with the campy full title of Johnny Guitar-The Lounge Western, features a book by Nicholas van Hoogstraten, lyrics and music by Joel Higgins, and music by Martin Silvestri.

The 1954 film, directed in blinding Technicolor by Nicholas Ray ("Rebel Without a Cause"), featured Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge in two notorious, over-the-top performances. Crawford is Vienna, the keeper of a saloon and gambling emporium on the edge of a frontier town. McCambridge is Emma Small, the shrill Puritanical leader of a gang of townies dead set on running Vienna and her pals out of town. Sterling Hayden is the title cowpoke, once Vienna's paramour, now her protector. The film featured Crawford at her most mannered and stands as one of the few westerns in which the men take a backseat to the female characters.

Bookwriter van Hoogstraten told Playbill On-Line the show is arch, but not camp. "You're gilding the lily if you make it camp." The songs, which include "Branded a Tramp," "Tell Me a Lie" and "Johnny Guitar," smack of the 1950s Hollywood western music sound of "Rawhide" and "Ghost Riders in the Sky."

This is the first musical for van Hoogstraten, who wrote the theatre history book, "Lost Broadway Theatres." The creative team hopes for an Off-Broadway production sometime in the future. A November 2002 reading featured Michele Pawk as Vienna. Steve Blanchard was Johnny and Joanna Glushak was Emma. The company also included David Sinkus, Ed Sala, Carson Church, Kenny Brescia, Ray Kilday, Jim Mironchik and Jeff Potter.

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