Pre-production for the Calhoun-directed workshop begins Aug. 12, and then the cast will rehearse for two-and-a-half weeks prior to the four performances at the Signature. Heading the cast of the musical are Kevin Anderson, who starred as Joe Gillis in the London premiere of Sunset Boulevard and who received a Tony nomination for his work in the recent revival of Death of a Salesman; and Smokey Joe's Cafe Tony nominee B. J. Crosby, who is currently starring in George C. Wolfe's Harlem Song.
Anderson and Crosby will play the roles of, respectively, "Taylor" and "Paradice" [sic], and they will be joined by David (Ragtime, Miss Saigon) Jennings as "Streetsinger," Karen (Rent) Olivo as "Saith" and newcomer Eden Esponosa as "Brooklyn." About Esponosa, Calhoun told Playbill On-Line Aug. 9, "We're really excited about her. She's quite a find." In fact, Calhoun's enthusiastic about the entire company. "John and I did extensive auditioning, and we couldn't be happier with the cast."
The five-person company will be accompanied by a six-piece band under the direction of Alex Lacamoire, who was the musical director for Off Broadway's Bat Boy. Calhoun explained that the workshop, which is closed to the public, serves a dual purpose. "One is to refine and work on the material," he said. "You can only work on it on the page for so long, and then you need to see it up on its feet. It will give us an opportunity to look at the musical onstage. The second objective is to raise the money [for a future production]."
Best known for his direction and Tony-nominated choreography for the hit 1994 revival of Grease!, Calhoun also collaborated with Tommy Tune on The Will Rogers Follies and The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public. He made his Broadway directorial debut with Tommy Tune Tonite! and choreographed the Faith Prince revival of Bells Are Ringing. In an earlier PBOL interview, Calhoun discussed his love for Brooklyn. "I really believe I've been waiting and training my whole life for this project," he said. "It is that amazing mix of commerce with high artistry, and it's hard to find something that can deliver both." Calhoun explained that the piece was initially brought to him by Paula Holt, who was the President and Artistic Director of Los Angeles' Tiffany Theatres. "It's written by this amazing man [Mark Schoenfeld] who was homeless, who survived on the kindness of strangers. That inspired him to write this story, and it's written from a homeless point of view about the homeless. [Schoenfeld] wrote everything — book, music and lyrics — [with his writing partner Barri McPherson]." Described as a morality tale of a "beautiful, young Parisian songstress, whose fame and fortune could not fill the emptiness of her soul," the new musical is set in Brooklyn, New York, and will transport audiences from the New York City borough to Paris and back.
An eclectic mix of soul and pop music with a bit of classic American tunes and opera thrown into the stew, Brooklyn possesses "the best score I've heard since Dreamgirls," Calhoun said. "It's a remarkable score, and I love when shows feel like they have their finger on the pulse of what's happening. I love the music of yesteryear, I really do, but I also like it when [there is music] you could actually listen to in your apartment and not have to be in the business to enjoy. I would love kids who do not live in New York and are not interested into going into show business to want to listen to this at home in their rooms. The music is just incredibly accessible. Certainly, my generation is going to love it, and I think younger people as well."
—By Andrew Gans