E. Faye Butler, Florence Lacey, Tally Sessions and Ta'Rea Campbell top the cast of Signature Theatre's world premiere musical, The Gospel According to Fishman, raising the roof at the Arlington, VA, nonprofit Jan. 8-Feb. 24, 2002.
Signature artistic director Eric Schaeffer stages the new musical by co lyricist-librettist Michael Lazar and composer and co librettist-lyricist Richard Oberacker. The musical tells the story of Alan Fishman (Sessions), a young Jewish composer from Brooklyn writing spiritual music for a black gospel choir led Nehi Taylor (played by Helen Hayes Award nominee E. Faye Butler). "Searching for his own voice while struggling with an interracial love affair during the height of the civil rights movement, Fishman follows the choir to Birmingham, AL, to protest the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church," according to the Signature announcement. "Standing at one of the most explosive turning points in history, Fishman is forced to decide what he believes and where he belongs."
E. Faye Butler was last seen in the DC area portraying Dinah Washington in Dinah Was at Arena Stage, a performance that earned her a 2001 Hayes nom as well as Chicago's Joseph Jefferson Award, Philadelphia's Barrymore Award, the AfterDark Award and the Black Theatre Alliance in the Arts Award. Chicago native Butler is the recipient of three Joseph Jefferson Awards and has appeared on Broadway in B.L.U.E.S. and Nunsense.
Sessions appeared in the recent Off-Broadway Godspell, Lacey (playing mom Bunny Fishman) is known for productions of Evita, Hello, Dolly! and An Evening With Jerry Herman and Campbell (playing Fishman's love interest) has appeared with Manhattan Theatre Club, New York Theatre Workshop and elsewhere.
The company also includes Almonica Caldwel, Chrystyna Dail, Eleasha Gamble, Gabrielle Goyette, Larry D. Hylton, Rodney D. Hussey, Wendell Jordan, Susan Lynskey, Sean McLaughlin, Paul Morella, Angela Deniese Polite, Cedric Sanders, Brain Quenton Thorne, Letitia Williams and David Lamont Wilson. Karma Camp choreographs. Paul Raiman musical directs. Designers are James Kronzer (set), Daniel MacLean Wagner (lighting), Rhonda Key (costume), Elsie Jones (props). Orchestrations are by David Kreppel, with vocal choir arrangements by Keith Thompson.
The production is made possible in part by Clear Channel Entertainment, which is nurturing new properties in the hope of larger, commercial futures.
Tickets are $28-$30. Signature Theatre, operating in an intimate space at 3806 South Four Mile Run Drive, in Arlington, VA, has gained a reputation for potent revivals of musicals and new plays and musicals. The theatre has been nominated for 119 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in the professional theatre and has been honored with 32 Helen Hayes Awards, including Outstanding Musical in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000 and Outstanding Play in 1999.
For information, call (703) 218-6500 or (800) 955-5566 or visit sig-online.org.
Busy collaborators Oberacker and Lazar will see their musical, Dracula, Game of Love, gets its world premiere Feb. 21-March 3, 2002, at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music.
For those who are counting, Count Dracula will sing in no less than three different musical versions of the gothic novel by Bram Stoker on American stages in 2002. North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA, will produce the Canadian show, Dracula, a Chamber Musical, in October 2002; and a Broadway staging of Frank Wildhorn, Christopher Hampton and Don Black's Dracula, the Musical has been announced for fall 2002.
Dracula, Game of Love, is a rare world premiere for the prestigious College Conservatory of Music. The adaptation of the vampire-horror romance novel features music by Oberacker and book and lyrics by Lazar and Oberacker. The writers are alums of CCM.
— By Kenneth Jones