Let the Waltz Begin: Baz's La Bohème Makes U.S. Debut Oct. 1 in San Fran

News   Let the Waltz Begin: Baz's La Bohème Makes U.S. Debut Oct. 1 in San Fran The romantic haze of Paris in the 1950s — the same world captured by the lens of photographer Robert Doisneau — will glow pink and rich at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, where the curtain rises Oct. 1 on the U.S. premiere if Baz Luhrmann's La Bohème.

The romantic haze of Paris in the 1950s — the same world captured by the lens of photographer Robert Doisneau — will glow pink and rich at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco, where the curtain rises Oct. 1 on the U.S. premiere if Baz Luhrmann's La Bohème.

The City by the Bay is home to Luhrmann's visionary retelling of the 1896 Puccini opera famously set in the City of Light. The director has se-set the work in 1957 Paris.

Performances of La Bohème, presented in its original Italian, with English supertitles, continues at the Curran until Nov. 10. It begins previews on Broadway Nov. 26, at the Broadway Theatre, toward a Dec. 8 opening.

Lovers Mimi and Rodolfo will be played by Russian soprano Ekaterina Solovyeva and American tenor David Miller for the first performance at the Curran, and two other couples — lean, sexy and in their twenties — alternate.

"We hope to tell this story in a way that will appeal not only to the people who love Puccini's music, but to the younger audiences who may never have seen an opera before," Luhrmann said in production notes. The casting schedule for the first week of the Curran run has Lisa Hopkins and Jesus Garcia playing matinees Wednesday Oct. 2 and Saturday Oct. 5; Wei Huang and Alfred Boe playing evenings Wednesday Oct. 2, Friday Oct. 4 and Saturday Oct. 5, and the matinee Sunday Oct. 6; and Solovyeva and Miller also playing Thursday evening Oct. 3 and the Sunday matinee Oct. 6 (in addition to that first show Oct. 1).

The playing schedule was expected to change for all but Hopkins and Garcia, who will be the lovers for the Wednesday and Saturday matinees during the run, a spokesman said. No couple will perform more than three shows per week, though live theatre being what it is, the couples who rehearsed together and who appear in the print ads together may occasionally be broken up due to sickness or other circumstances (you can only imagine what couple might appear in the event of a nasty head cold, a blinding snow storm and halted public transportation some mid-winter's night; that's when observers say theatre gets really exciting).

Audiences who care to see a specific pair will be informed of the cast schedule when they purchase tickets, a spokesman said. The young casts rotate because of the vocally-challenging nature of the Puccini score.

The same goes for the roles of Marcello and Musetta, which are each double-cast and will rotate, with no performer playing more than four shows per week.

On Oct. 1, Musetta will be played by Jessica Comeau and Marcello is sung by Eugene Brancoveanu, alternating performances throughout the week with Chloe Wright and Ben Davis.

In San Francisco and on Broadway, director Luhrmann and designer wife Catherine Martin create a stylized world (complete with stark blacks, white and grays, splashes of color and a passerelle — a ramp that wraps around the orchestra pit). The orchestra is reduced to 26 from the larger number that would be heard in an opera house and includes an electronic keyboard. In another break from the opera tradition, the orchestra and singers will be amplified, according to newspaper reports.

There is no designated opening night at San Francisco's Curran Theatre but the press will start coming Oct. 15, press rep Chris Boneau said, with reviews likely to appear by Oct. 17.

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It has not yet been announced who will appear in the roles for the Broadway opening night, which is the show that determines who is eligible for Tony Awards.

Joining the previously announced six international actors are Daniel Webb as Colline, Daniel Okulitch as Schaunard, William Youmans as Alcindoro and Adam Grupper as Benoit. The ensemble of La Bohème comprises Enrique Abdala, Christine Arand, Janinah Burnett, Gilles Chiasson, Charlotte Cohn, Michael Cone, Vanessa Conlin, Sean Cooper, Patricia Corbett, Evangelia Costantakos, Lawrence Craig, Dan Entriken, Graham Fandrei, Bobby Faust, Katie Geissinger, Jennifer Goode, Paul Goodwin Groen, Joy Hermalyn, Robb Hillman, Adam Hunter, Tim Jerome, Katherine Keyes, Laurice Lanier, Morgan Moody Marcus Nance, Daniel Neer, Debra Patchell Patricia Phillips, Jamet Pittman, Martin Sola, Radu Spinghel, David Steinberg, and Mark Womack. The production will also feature an ensemble cast of 16 children.

The Bohème cast will number 50, and the performers are members of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) rather than Actors' Equity, which represents most Broadway actors.

The producers are Jeffrey Seller, Kevin McCollum, Emanuel Azenberg and Bazmark Live.

Musical director Constantine Kitsopoulos conduct the orchestra. The opera has a legendary score by Giacomo Puccini — even those who avoid opera will recognize "Musetta's Waltz," if only from its interpolations in movies — and was first seen in 1896. The Luhrmann version was a sensation in Australia in its first staging in 1990 (which was revived, popularly, Down Under).

La Bohème's Broadway playing schedule (the same as the Curran's) will be 8 PM Tuesday-Saturday; 2 PM Wednesday and Saturday; 3 PM Sunday. Tickets ($20 $95) are available at (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432 7250.

For ticket information about the Oct. 1-Nov. 10 run at the Curran, call (415) 512-7770.

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Tony Award eligibility rules dictate that the actors appearing on the designated opening night are the ones who are Tony eligible. Chris Boneau, spokesman for La Bohème previously told Playbill On-Line Sept. 19 said the Broadway opening night casting has not been determined and the immediate focus of producers and creators is the San Francisco tryout.

"We are talking about Tony eligibility but no decision has been made," Boneau previously said, adding that this animal is unique. "We don't know. It's an opera for Broadway and it's not behaving like a traditional Broadway show. We are trying to figure out how best to represent the show (before dealing with issues like awards)."

Asked if there was a possibility of all six performers rotating on opening night within the same performance (thus potentially making the entire cast eligible or — depending on the quirk of the nominating committee — making all three men eligible as Best Actor and all three women as Best Actress), Boneau would only say various scenarios have been discussed. He stressed that the play's the thing and the creators and producers want to make sure the production is best served.

(Predicting how the principals may or may not be eligible for Tony Awards is difficult, but the Tony nominating committee has been flexible in the past: When two actresses played conjoined twins in Side Show in 1998, they were, together, considered one actress and were nommed as such for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.)

The expectation in the theatre community is that La Bohème will be viewed by the Tony Award nominators as a revival, particularly given the Tony Awards Administration Committee's recent ruling on the eligibility of shows deemed "classics": "A play or musical that is determined by the Tony Awards Administration Committee (in its sole discretion) to be a 'classic' or in the historical or popular repertoire shall not be eligible for an Award in the Best Play or Best Musical Category but may be eligible in that appropriate Best Revival category."

In the event that La Bohème gets shoved into the Best Special Theatrical Event category, director Baz Luhrmann and designer Catherine Martin (as well as performers and other designers) would lose their eligibility, which would likely give the Tony committee a black eye — since this La Bohème's first staging in Australia in 1990, the production has always been considered a masterstroke of Luhrmann and Martin's febrile imaginations.

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The doomed love affair between seamstress Mimi and the artist Rodolfo is set against the world of bohemian Paris in 1957. Luhrmann's La Boheme premiered in 1990, and became the biggest hit in the history of the Sydney Opera House and a sold-out sensation. It played return engagements at the Sydney Opera House in 1993, when it was recorded for video, and in 1996.

As previously announced, the design staff will include Academy Award winners Catherine Martin (scenic design and co-costume design) and Angus Strathie (co-costume design), Nigel Levings (lighting design) and Acme Sound Partners (sound design).

Onetime actor Luhrmann is internationally known for directing the films "Strictly Ballroom" (which he began as a play), "Romeo + Juliet" and the Academy Award nominated "Moulin Rouge." He has worked in film, opera, theatre, music and events management. With wife Catherine Martin, he is the founder and director of Bazmark. In 1988, he created the critically acclaimed opera, Lake Lost, with composer Felix Meagher, where he first collaborated with designer Catherine Martin.