The four-actor show by lyricist-librettist Sean Grennan and composer Leah Okimoto had its world premiere earlier this year at American Heartland Theatre in Kansas City, and reps of the Marriott paid the show a visit. Chicago native Grennan is no stranger to Marriott, in Lincolnshire, IL. His earlier musicals Ms. Cinderellla and Phantom of the Country Opera played there, and Grennan acted at Marriott three times.
Grennan's actress wife Kathy Santen is also a veteran of Chicago productions (including almost 20 Marriott productions, for which she snagged two Jeff Awards) will recreate her Kansas City role of Diane, the middle-aged wife, in the Illinois Married Alive! (Santen was a company member of Wicked in Chicago in 2005-06.)
Victoria Bussert will direct Married Alive! for Marriott Theatre.
Aaron Thielen, Marriott's associate artistic director and Terry James, executive producer, shepherded the show to its Illinois run. They attended the KC run and thought it was right and ready for the Marriott audience, Grennan told Playbill.com.
Marriott sponsored a summer 2005 workshop of the show; its artistic consultant at the time was Rick Boynton. "We've found this to be so valuable," Grennan told Playbill.com during the 2005 workshop period. "Before this we could only hear things and talk them over but this has really given us the medium and the mission to refine, revamp and try things out with the actors. Yesterday we had the actors try a beat three ways to get it right. Rick Boynton in particular had great dramaturgical things to give us. I wish we could have another week but this is the most progress in the shortest time that we've made."
Further discoveries were made in Kansas City under Paul Hough's direction.
Marriott has a passion for revivals, revisals and new works. The in-the-round operation in suburban Chicago is current offering the world premiere of the musical comedy Once Upon a Time in New Jersey.
Married Alive!, which might one day end up giving I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change a run for its money, ended its extended world premiere run in Kansas City April 23.
Due to popular demand, an extra week was added to the schedule (it was announced to end April 16). Performances began at American Heartland Theatre March 3. The four-performer musical comedy charts wedded bliss — and blisters — from the perspectives of wide-eyed newlyweds and jaded oldyweds.
The KC run featured Ginette Rhodes as newlywed Erin; Todd Alan Crain as newlywed Paul; Kansas City favorite James Wright as middle-aged Ron; and Kathy Santen as his wife, Diane, under the direction of Paul Hough, with musical direction by Anthony T. Edwards.
Lyricist-librettist Sean Grennan and composer Leah Okimoto, both New Yorkers, were in residence for rehearsals in Missouri, refining their work up to the last minute.
Grennan told Playbill.com the developing show has drawn interest from other regional theatres and artistic directors who are seeking small piano-and-voice shows that are easy to produce. He said they walked away from the KC run with notes about how the show can be further refined, and found it a vital developmental step.
Grennan's musical Rodeo was a finalist at the L.A. ASCAP/Disney Musical Theatre Festival in 2002 and, subsequently, was the sole ASCAP-sponsored work in the Perry-Mansfield "New Noises" festival in Steamboat Springs, CO. He also penned the non-musical comedy Luck!
Okimoto has been composing for musical theatre since she moved to New York City, after graduating from Harvard. The Genesius Theatre Guild presented an evening of her work in New York City in May 2003. Her family-friendly musical Just So was produced in February 2003 by Open Door Repertory Theatre in Oak Park, IL.
Their next show together, A Dog's Life, about — you guessed it — the life and times of a pooch, will premiere at American Heartland Theatre in 2006-07.