As its revue Taking a Chance on Love revives interest in the life and work of lyricist John Latouche, the York Theatre Company has been sponsoring three panel discussions on the writer March 11, 18 and 25. The Off-Broadway show ends its run March 26.
The next panel, March 18, is titled, “Latouche's Legacy: A Retrospective View of a Writer's Writer.” Assembled will be Village Voice theatre critic Michael Feingold; composer & lyricist Barry Kleinbort (Perfect Harmony, Angelina); theatre critics Charles Nelson and Douglas Watt; and historian Max Wilk.
After that will come “Latouche Remembered: Friends and Collaborators Reminisce” (March 25). Kenward Elmslie, librettist & lyricist for The Grass Harp and LaTouche’s lover and inspiration for Taking a Chance on Love, will be a panelist. (He’s also the librettist-lyricist for Postcards on Parade, due at the York Theatre April 11, with Jennifer Allen, Mark Lotito, and John Hillner. Clayton Phillips directs the show, which features music by Steven Taylor. )
Also on the March 25 panel are Latouche’s friends, Richard Grayson, T. Edward Hambleton, Gerritt Lansing and Dr. Bertram Slaff.
The first panel (March 11) spotlighted performers who have sung Latouche, including Shannon Bolin (The Golden Apple), Dolores Wilson (The Ballad of Baby Doe), Dody Goodman (Red Riding Hood Revisited) and Perry Bruskin (Beggar's Holiday). All discussions have question and answer periods and begin at 4:30 PM. The panels are free of charge.
The York Theatre Company opened the world premiere of Taking a Chance On Love March 2.
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. Explored in the musical piece are 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.
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. Pamela Isaacs (The Life) left the show in rehearsals.
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.
-- By David Lefkowitz
and Kenneth Jones