The York Theatre Company opens the world premiere revue of the life and work of lyricist John Latouche, Taking a Chance on Love, March 2 in Manhattan.
Terry Burrell, Jerry Dixon (Once on This Island), Donna English (Off Broadway's Ruthless) and Eddie Korbich (Carousel) sing classic and obscure songs from such Latouche musicals as The Golden Apple, Candide and Cabin in the Sky.
Devised by Erik Haagensen, the two-act tuner uses Latouche's letters, journals and poetry to fill in the blanks between such songs as "Lazy Afternoon" and the revue's title number, taken from Cabin in the Sky.
Previews began Feb. 17, a delay of two days to allow for a cast change in the developing tuner, which has a company of four telling the story of Latouche, who is billed as a kind of bad boy of Broadway. Performances continue to March 26.
Pamela Isaacs (The Life) left the show in rehearsals. *
Explored in the piece will be the contradictory elements in the life of Latouche: Gay yet married, a patriot who wrote for FDR but was blacklisted for communist sympathies, gifted but destructive. He died at age 41.
Lyricist-librettist John Treville Latouche was born in Richmond, VA, in 1917, and set his sights on New York City early, mixing with the literary lights of his time.
York artistic director James Morgan directs Taking a Chance on Love and designs the set. Musical staging is by Janet Watson and musical direction is by Jeffrey R. Smith. Other designers are Suzy Benzinger (costumes) and Ryan K. Schmidt (lighting).
Tickets are $40. The York is The Theatre at St. Peter's, Lexington at 54th Street in Manhattan. For information, call (212) 239-6200.
York, the voice of intimate musical theatre in New York City, previously scheduled Taking a Chance on Love for November 1999-January 2000, but opted to put Jolson and Company in that slot.
Expected in Taking a Chance on Love are songs from Candide, The Golden Apple, Cabin in the Sky and more. The show represents such composers as Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, Vernon Duke and Jerome Moross.
Latouche wrote lyrics to existing music by Chopin, and teamed with Ellington for Beggar's Holiday (1946) which York presented in concert Oct. 1-3, 1999, in its Musicals in Mufti series.
Other Latouche shows include From Vienna (1939), Banjo Eyes and The Lady Comes Across (both with Duke in 1941), Rhapsody (1944, music by Fritz Kreisler), Polonaise (1945, music by Chopin), The Vamp (1955, music by James Mundy). He also penned the opera, The Ballad of Baby Doe, which New York City Opera will revive in 2000-2001.
Later this season, York will present Postcards on Parade, with book and lyrics by Kenward Elmslie (The Grass Harp) and music by Steven Taylor, called "an absurdly funny love story which takes a phantasmagoric look at the quirky world of postcards and postcard collectors."
Elmslie, coincidentally or not, was John Latouche's partner at the time of his death, and figures into Taking a Chance on Love.
-- By Kenneth Jones