War Brides, a romantic musical about British women who fight to be reunited with the U.S. soldiers they met during World War II, gets a New York City reading Oct. 22 at the Century Center Theatre, with Audrey Lavine, Valerie Fagan, Lynne Halliday, Cindy Marchionda and Bethany Smith as the title brides.
War Brides has a book by Ron Sproat, music by Christopher Berg and lyrics by Frank Evans. Bick Goss directs. Alan Gilbert, Fredric Marco and Jay Montgomery play their lovers, and other roles. The focus is on the British two women, Mo (played by Smith) and Ivy (played by Marchionda).
The work was seen in a full production (under the title Back Home) in 1994 at the New Hope Performing Arts Festival in Bucks County, PA, and has had readings at Paper Mill Playhouse and National Musical Theatre Network. Smith and Halliday are recreating their Bucks County performances.
The New York City reading is to test rewrites since previous readings in anticipation of a staging at the 199-seat Spirit of Broadway Theatre in Norwich, CT in June 2002. Mark Janas is musical director Oct. 22.
Composer Christopher Berg recently completed an opera based on Shakespeare's Cymbeline, and is currently composing a set of songs and vocal ensembles, commissioned by the Mirror Visions Ensemble, for performances in Paris in March 2002. Among the performers who have recorded his work is theatre legend Elaine Stritch. His most frequently performed song, a setting of Frank O'Hara's "Poem," begins with the immortal line: "Lana Turner has collapsed!" Lyricist Frank Evans co-wrote lyrics to the musical, Abie's Island Rose, seen Off-Broadway and in Florida, and he penned lyrics for the musical, Dinner at Eight, based on the classic American play and movie. Librettist Ron Sproat's many credits include being head writer for TV's "Dark Shadows." He also wrote the libretto for the original musical, Abie's Island Rose.
Song titles in War Brides include "Chimneys and Steeples," "Back Home" and "The Thrill of Romance."
When it was reviewed by The Philadelphia Inquirer and other papers, the Bucks County production was hailed as having a score that marries the swing sounds of the 1940s to the sophistication of the modern, post Sondheim musical (with a hint of English music hall).
The War Brides reading is 8 PM Sept. 22, as part the Musical Mondays series at Century Center. Suggested donation is $10. The Century Center is located just east of Union Square, 111 E. 15th Street. For reservations, call (212) 982-6782 ext. 19.
— By Kenneth Jones