The show, which began performances Dec. 9 and opened Jan. 19, prolonged its run in the wake of solid reviews. It has since become one of the few pronounced Off-Broadway hits in an otherwise lackluster season. There has also been talk of a national tour.
Hank is the latest work from Randal Myler, the man behind It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues and Love, Janis (about Janis Joplin) and the director of the upcoming Dream a Little Dream (about the Mamas and the Papas).
Like Love, Janis, which charted the career of rocker Janis Joplin, Lost Highway follows the career of a music legend: bedeviled country singer-songwriter Hank Williams. The show follows Williams from his beginnings in Alabama honky tonks to his glory days commanding the charts and the stage of the Grand Ole Opry to his rapid decline into erratic behavior and alcoholism. He died of a heart attack in the back seat of a Cadillac on Jan. 1, 1953. He was 29.
The show is interwoven with 25 Williams songs like "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" and "Hey, Good Lookin'" which are now part of the American musical fabric. Among Williams' other well-known tunes are "Move It on Over," "Lovesick Blues," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Settin' the Woods on Fire."
Myler co-wrote the show with Mark Harelik and will direct. Star Jason Petty was doing an impersonation of Williams—as well as a collection of other country music legends—at the amusement park Opryland in the mid-90s when the someone from Nashville's newly renovated Ryman Auditorium saw the show. He told Petty that a Hank Williams revue was going into the auditorium. That was Hank Williams by Harelik, which had its start back in 1986 at the Denver Theatre Center.
Petty was invited to participate in a reading, at which future co-author and director Randal Myler sat in as an advisor. Myler subsequently asked Petty to be part of another music-themed production, Appalachian Strings, at the Cincinnati Playhouse.
Petty won the role of Hank and starred in the revamped show at the Ryman Auditorium, winning acclaim. The show then went on to performances in Montgomery, Alabama, and the Cleveland Playhouse, where David Fishelson of the Manhattan Ensemble Theatre saw the show and quickly booked it for its New York debut.
For tickets, call (212) 239-6200.