Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind Launches U.S. Tour Sept. 9

News   Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind Launches U.S. Tour Sept. 9 The first-ever American national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jim Steinman's musical, Whistle Down the Wind, blows into Houston's Theater Under the Stars Sept. 9.
Eric Kunze and Andrea Ross star in Whistle Down the Wind.
Eric Kunze and Andrea Ross star in Whistle Down the Wind.

Directed and produced by Bill Kenwright, the tour's debut cast features Eric Kunze as The Man and Andrea Ross as Swallow with Dann Fink, Adam Shonkwiler, Austin J. Zambito-Valente, Nadine Jacobson, Carole Denise Jones, Greg Stone and Kurt Zischke. The ensemble includes Ryan Appleby, Renee Claire Bergeron, Al Bundonis, Raisa Ellingson, Elizabeth Earley, Alexis Hightower, Stephen Horst, James Jackson, Jr., Justine Magnusson, Jason Ostrowski, Thomas Rainey and Mickey Toogood.

Eric Kunze previously toured in the title role of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar. His Broadway credits include Marius in Les Misérables, Chris in Miss Saigon and Joe Hardy in the revival of Damn Yankees.

Kunze's co-star, Andrea Ross, is an Elliot Norton winner for her roles in Ramona Quimby, The Sound of Music and A Little Night Music. Ross' upcoming debut album, "Moon River," is produced by Whistle Down the Wind composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The creative team for the national tour of Whistle includes costume and set design by Paul Farnsworth, choreography by Henry Metcalfe, musical direction by David Steadman, lighting design by Nick Richings and sound design by Ben Harrison.

Based on the novel by Mary Hayley Bell and the subsequent 1961 movie set in the U.K., the musical — with book by Patricia Knop, Gale Edwards and Andrew Lloyd Webber and featuring lyrics by Jim Steinman of "Meatloaf" songwriting fame — is now set in Louisiana in 1959. Whistle Down the Wind, according to press notes, "tells the story of a young Louisiana girl who finds a mysterious stranger hiding in her barn. When she asks his identity—the first words he utters are 'Jesus Christ;' and it’s as if all her prayers have been answered. While the townspeople are determined to find the escaped felon, she and her friends vow to protect him from the outside world."

Lloyd Webber's score incorporates blues, gospel, country, rock 'n' roll and traditional Broadway styles into the songs "No Matter What," "A Kiss is a Terrible Thing to Waste," "The Vaults of Heaven," "The Nature of the Beast," "Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts," and the title tune.

Following the conclusion of the Houston debut on Sept. 22, Whistle Down the Wind will tour to the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford (Sept. 25-30); Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul (Oct. 9-21) Community Center Theater in Sacramento (Oct. 30-Nov. 11); 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle (Nov. 13-Dec. 2); Fisher Theatre in Detroit (Jan. 8-27, 2008); and the Wilshire Theatre in Los Angeles (April 22-27).

For tickets to the Houston premiere of Whistle Down the Wind running Sept. 9-22, visit www.tuts.com.

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Whistle Down the Wind made its first American bow in 1996 at the National Theatre, under the direction of Hal Prince. The intended Broadway transfer was scrapped and the musical was reworked for a successful West End production in 1998, helmed by Gale Edwards. A subsequent U.K. tour in 2001, with Bill Kenwright at the reins, saw further development and restructuring of the musical's book, in order to focus on the musical's human elements. It played a brief West End engagement in 2006.

The company of <i>Whistle Down the Wind</i>.
The company of Whistle Down the Wind. Photo by Carol Rosegg