Masada, an Unlikely Musical Idea, Packs 'em in at Two NYC Readings

News   Masada, an Unlikely Musical Idea, Packs 'em in at Two NYC Readings
 
Masada, a new musical drama about the Jewish rebellion against the Romans atop the Middle Eastern mountain of Masada, might sound ambitious and unlikely as a tuner, but the second of two readings is sold out March 22 in New York.

Masada, a new musical drama about the Jewish rebellion against the Romans atop the Middle Eastern mountain of Masada, might sound ambitious and unlikely as a tuner, but the second of two readings is sold out March 22 in New York.

Interested theatregoers and industry people filled the first concert reading March 21 at the 14th Street Y Theater's First Look Series in Manhattan, said lyricist-librettist Michael Aman. The March 22 reading is also sold out.

Aman told Playbill On-Line hours before the second reading that some producers and artistic directors have come for a listen, and he and his collaborators are hoping there's enough backer or nonprofit interest to fund a fuller workshop staging and a new demo recording later this year.

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The infamous 73 A.D. rebellion -- against the imminent Roman takeover of a Jewish fortress -- ended in the mass suicide of nearly 1,000 men, women and children, all Jewish zealots. Aman, who co-wrote the book and lyrics with Oscar E. Moore, is directing the readings. Music is by Benjamin Rosenbluth. The script is based on "The Antagonists," a novelistic approach to the historical event, by Ernest K. Gann.

Lyricist-librettist Aman met composer Rosenbluth in the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop in 1991-92 and met co-writer Moore in a musical theatre workshop sponsored by ASCAP.

Aman, 34, told Playbill On-Line that he saw a TV miniseries called "Masada" when he was in high school, and it moved him. He noted that the series was based on the Gann book. When looking for a project to musicalize, he sought and won musical stage rights to the book.

The main characters are the Roman leader Flavius Silva (in love with his Jewish slave) and Eleazar, the Jewish leader (who wishes to protect his wife and son).

The collaborators have been working on the project for five years, and Aman said the 28-song score "has a bit of a pop feel to it," but is not sung-through.

He said he's not concerned with competition from another Masada musical project (subtitled The Musical Saga) that had a concert version in Los Angeles in December 1998 starring Davis Gaines (The Phantom of the Opera).

Aman said he hasn't heard the other show's two-disc recording (with Gaines and Quincy Jones) and doesn't want to. That musical, by Shuki Levy (music) and Shell Danielson (book and lyrics), also includes a star-crossed love between Silva and a Jewish zealot.

The New York company for the Masada concert reading includes Rod Thomas, Tim Toal, Leonard McKenzie, Rachel Rosenbluth, P.J. Griffith, Michael Harris, Jovier Sanchez, Christian Smythe, Joe Simmons, Annamarie Smith, James Casson, Gregory Bossler, Matthew Coyle, Adam Garrido, Bill Hartery, Brad Surosky, Cami Carter, Joan Marie Ferry, Jackie Lerner, Jillian Louis and Andrea Scott.

Musical director is Tammy Holder.

The 14th Street Y Theater is located 344 E. 14th Street, near First Avenue. For last-minute ticket information, call (212) 780-0800 ext. 278.

-- By Kenneth Jones

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