Martin Guerre, Inching Toward Broadway, Opens in D.C., Dec. 23

News   Martin Guerre, Inching Toward Broadway, Opens in D.C., Dec. 23 Martin Guerre, the new Boublil-Schonberg musical which has had a long journey to the U.S., and which began its stateside life Sept. 17 at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, will begin previews at Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center on Dec 23. The Broadway-bound production will open on Dec. 29 and remain in Washington until Jan. 16, 2000.

Martin Guerre, the new Boublil-Schonberg musical which has had a long journey to the U.S., and which began its stateside life Sept. 17 at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, will begin previews at Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center on Dec 23. The Broadway-bound production will open on Dec. 29 and remain in Washington until Jan. 16, 2000.

The play tells the story of the eponymous French peasant who returns to his family in 1551 after nine years fighting in the war. He seems a very changed man and, although his wife accepts him back, doubts about his true identity emerge.

Hugh Panaro assumes the title role. Co-starring in Guerre are Erin Dilly as Bertrande and Stephen Buntrock as Arnaud du Thil.

Panaro recently starred in Broadway's Phantom of the Opera. Other Broadway credits include Side Show, Show Boat and Les Miz. Buntrock, who spent time as Barrett on Titanic on Broadway, was on the brink of the national tour of Beauty and the Beast when he got the offer to appear in Guerre. Dilly played Billie in the Encores! staging of Babes in Arms and was recently in Off-Broadway's Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight.

Also in the cast of Martin Guerre are Jose Llana, Michael Arnold, John Leslie Wolfe, Kathy Taylor, Angela Lockett, Todd Alan Johnson, John Herrera and Alvin Crawford. Conall Morrison directs. An associate director at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Morrison has helmed Boucicault's The Colleen Bawn and Patrick Kavanaugh's Tarry Flynn at that theatre.

The main question remaining for the future Martin Guerre is which Broadway theatre it will fill. Talk in the Broadway community has producer Mackintosh closing one of his long-running shows -- such as Miss Saigon or Cats -- to make room for the new production. A spokesman for Martin Guerre, however, denied that scenario.

The rest of the show's pre-Broadway schedule runs as follows:

* Seattle, The Fifth Avenue Theater, beginning Jan. 22-Feb. 12, 2000
* Los Angeles, The Ahmanson Theatre, beginning Feb. 16-April 8, 2000
* New York City, theatre tba, previews April 15, 2000; opening April 26

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Three was a charm for Martin Guerre in November 1998, when the show opened at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in a co-production between the Leeds-based theatre and Mackintosh. The third and latest production of the phoenix-like musical featured a rewritten libretto and new songs from Boublil and Schonberg, whose writing partnership has produced two of the most successful musicals of all time, Les Miserables and Miss Saigon , both produced by Mackintosh.

Martin Guerre first opened in July 1996 at the West End's Prince Edward Theatre but received universally bad reviews. Mackintosh invested £4 million to re-package the show which re- opened in November 1996. That year, it won the Olivier Awards for Best Musical and Best Choreography, and it ran for over 700 performances.

Despite its eventual success, Boublil and Schonberg remained unsatisfied with the result, believing it had been rushed and was not faithful to the material.

For the new co-production, an impressive new creative team has been assembled. Martin Guerre is directed by Morrison, associate director at Dublin's Abbey Theatre, with musical staging and choreography by Abbey Theatre's David Bolger, design by John Napier (whose productions include Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Cats, Starlight Express and Sunset Boulevard), lighting by Howard Harrison and orchestrations by William David Brohn. The Yorkshire production earned vastly improved reviews.

-- By Robert Simonson