Sater told Playbill.com that the latest private workshop is a structural departure from The Nightingale's former incarnation. Lapine, who also directed the previous New York workshop, has revisited the original Hans Christian Anderson tale with the writers.
Should the creators feel satisfied with their current efforts, a fully staged Nightingale could materialize in the near future, Sater said.
"It's been a massive amount of work, and it's actually very exciting," Sater explained. "After the last workshop, we just had a different vision of the play and an insight into how to completely re-imagine the show in a way that just seemed much cooler to all of us."
"People were very happy with it," Sater added about the November presentation, "but I had an underlying dissatisfaction with it and James and Duncan shared it. We all got very excited with this new idea and a new way to attack the material, which involved going back to the framework of the original story."
The revision meant possible mountings of The Nightingale would have to be put on hold. "We didn't want to wait so long to go out of town and have a sort of out-of-town try-out, or pre-Broadway tryout. We wanted to jump in and do this thing and put it on its feet quickly and see what we have," said Sater. In his original conceit, Sater envisioned The Nightingale to be the story of a young emperor. "It no longer is," he said. "I really wanted to write a story about regret and the aged emperor's story." The November cast included A Chorus Line's Jason Tam in the role of the emperor, who is enchanted with the music of the nightingale.
The current workshop casts Tony nominee Marc Kudisch as the older emperor alongside Tony Award winner Tonya Pinkins as the now female role of the fisherwoman. Spring Awakening's Skylar Astin has been cast as the young embodiment of the emperor, with a company that also includes Patina Milller, Barrett Foa and Miguel Cervantes. Kelsey Fowler, currently appearing in Sunday in the Park with George, has been cast in the title role.
With The Nightingale, Sater and Duncan Sheik are incorporating songs into its story in a way that is unlike Spring Awakening. Their first Tony-winning hit incorporated music as internal rock monologues, which provided escape and commentary for Spring Awakening's young characters.
Sater said that from the start he wanted "to find a way in which to make songs work within a story in a way that made sense to me. It was never meant to break rules; it was always meant to feel natural and organic to the kind of songs we wanted to write and the kind of stories we wanted to write.
"Duncan and I are really invested in that," he continued. "And James has always been an innovator himself and has been interested in that. There's a way in which this piece is becoming about the power of story and the power of song."
The Nightingale has retained much of its original score, with Sater and Sheik penning a few new tunes for the current workshop. Sater has also revisited his lyrics, as the context and in some cases, the characters who inhabit them, have changed.
Songs penned by Sheik and Sater for The Nightingale include "Heaven Untold," "This Is Good," "Think What Heaven Must See," "The Nightingale Who Sings," "Such Things," "Happily Ever After," "In My Book," "The Song of the Human Heart," "The River of Your Mind," "Night Has None," "Frightened Soul," "A Rumor of Angels," and "Everything Sings With the Nightingale."