LOS ANGELES -- Just in time for Chanukah, a gala concert performance of Masada: The Musical will be given Tuesday, Dec. 15, 1998 at the Shubert Theatre in Century City.
Hosted by Jon Voight and featuring Davis Gaines (Phantom of the Opera), this world premiere of a new work by Shuki Levy (music) and Shell Danielson (book & lyrics) will benefit D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education). Curtain time is 8 PM.
Masada is based on the historical account of 967 men, women and children who stood atop the mountain of Masada in defiance of the 15,000 Roman soldiers who sought to enslave them.
"The story is told through the eyes of Eleazar Ben Yar (Gaines), leader of the Zealots, as well as the Roman General Flavius Silva," said a company spokesperson. "Woven into the fabric of this epic struggle is a touching, star-crossed love story between Tamar, a beautiful young zealot, and the Roman General Silva."
According to the same source, the musical is heading toward a Broadway production as well as productions in major European and Far East cities. Plans are also under way to produce a full production of Masada atop Masada for the millennium celebration in Israel.
The musical was conceived by composer Levy, who is also one of Saban Entertainment's founders and a successful composer for film and TV, This is his first musical theatre piece.
"I always dreamed of writing a musical, but I didn't want it to be an artificial 'tailored' piece, rather something real that comes from the heart. For me, this story, and its theme of 'Let no man be another's slave," is something that speaks to my heart, and hopefully will have universal resonance."
Danielson is a screenwriter ("Exception to the Rule," with Sean Young and William Devane).
Gaines is presently starring in Phantom of the Opera at the Pantages Theatre in L.A. "I have had the privilege of singing some of the greatest roles ever written for musical theatre, and this music and this role ranks as one of the most powerful," said Gaines. "When I was offered the opportunity to sing the role of Eleazar, I happily agreed. It's a wonderful role."
Although well-known for a long string of feature films, Voight began his career on Broadway in such shows as Sound of Music and View From the Bridge.
D.A.R.E. is a police officer-led series of classrooms lessons that teach kindergarten through 12th-grade children how to lead drug-free lives. Another portion of the box office proceeds will go to the Masada Preservation Fund, an organization dedicated to archaeological study and the preservation of the historic landmark located in Israel.
Predating this premiere, a 2-CD set of Masada featuring Gaines, Quincy Jones and the Moscow Symphony was recorded in late 1997 and released a year later in Israel.
The Shubert Theatre is at 2020 Avenue of the Stars. Tickets are $35-$55. Call (800) 447-7400. Visit website www.masada.net.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent