Mask, Musical Tale of Mother, Son and Belonging, Begins World Premiere in CA

News   Mask, Musical Tale of Mother, Son and Belonging, Begins World Premiere in CA The real-life story of a disfigured boy, his tough mom and the biker community that embraces them, is told with songs starting March 12, when Mask — the new musical inspired by the 1985 film — begins performances in California.
Allen E. Read of Mask
Allen E. Read of Mask

Allen E. Read, a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, plays teen Rocky in the Pasadena Playhouse production of the Richard Maltby Jr.-directed show, which was penned by the picture's screenwriter Anna Hamilton Phelan (book), Barry Mann (music) and Cynthia Weil (lyrics).

The official opening is set for March 21 at Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Avenue, in Pasadena, CA. Performances play to April 20.

The production also features Michelle Duffy as Rocky's biker mom Rusty (the role created by Cher), Greg Evigan ("My Two Dads," "B.J. and the Bear," Broadway's Grease, Jesus Christ Superstar) as Gar (created by Sam Elliott) and Michael Lanning as Dozer.

The Pasadena Playhouse staging is produced by special arrangement with commercial producer James B. Freydberg (Big), who hopes to take the show to a wider life.

Young actor Read (assuming the role created by Eric Stoltz in the film) has appeared in productions by Playwrights Horizons, Ars Nova, TACT/The Actors Company Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, The Alliance Theatre Company, Geva Theatre, Westport Country Playhouse, Georgia Shakespeare Festival and more. Duffy is a 2007 Ovation Award winner for Pasadena Playhouse's Can-Can.

"I am thrilled that we have the honor of presenting the world premiere of this exciting new musical at our theatre," Playhouse artistic director Sheldon Epps stated. "This musical has an illustrious and highly celebrated creative team, as well as an exciting young cast, including Ovation Award winner Michelle Duffy who brought incredible energy to our production of Can-Can. Once again, the Playhouse displays its leadership in our theatrical community by giving birth to a project which I feel sure will have a long and successful life."

The Mask cast also includes Alec Barnes as Eric, Brad Blaisdell as Roadkill, Katy Blake as Sirocco, Ryan Castellino as Ruben, Diane Delano as Retread, Chris Fore as Biker/Student, Sarah Glendening as Diana, Krysten Leigh Jones as Biker/Student, Mark Luna as T-Bone, Heather Marie Marsden as Zephyr, Shanon Mari Mills as Amy, Suzanne Petrela as Angel, Ethan Le Phong as Biker/Student, Jolene Purdy as Biker/Student, James Leo Ryan as John the Baptist and Matthew Stocke as Barstow/Mr. Simms.

According to the Playhouse, "Mask is a musical based on the true story of an unusual looking boy and his unconventional biker mother. She shows him how to embrace life. He shows her how to choose it."

Roy L. "Rocky" Dennis suffered from craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, a rare sclerotic bone disorder that causes calcium to build up in the skull, resulting in disfigurement and reduced life expectancy.

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The songwriting team of Mann and Weil created such hits as "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," "On Broadway," "Here You Come Again" and "Somewhere Out There."

Playwright and screenwriter Phelan penned the films "Mask," "Gorillas in the Mist" and more. She said in production notes, "When I was researching the screenplay for 'Mask,' I entered the world of The Tribe. After the release of the movie in 1985 I remained friends with them, especially Rusty. As the years passed Rusty became more open about her feelings, especially about being Rocky's mother. When I told her I was going to tell the story again, but this time as a musical play, she was thrilled. My subsequent visits with her in her trailer in Azusa unearthed a treasure of rich material as she continued to share her memories with me. I also learned that biker clubs as far away as Missouri had 'adopted' Rocky as a kind of mascot. Some had his initials painted on their bikes.

"The last time I spoke to Rusty was a few weeks before she died in October 2006 at the age of 70. She was driving her chopped, three-wheeled motorcycle to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. One of the back tires fell off, she was thrown and hit a curb. I'm sure she was saying to herself, 'What a bitchin' way to go!'

"I regret she won't be in the front row at the opening as we had planned, but I know she would have been grateful, as I am, to the Pasadena Playhouse for giving me the opportunity to tell this story a second time…"

Joining the creative team are Patti Colombo (musical staging), Joseph Church (music direction), Robert Brill (scenic design), Maggie Morgan (costume design), David Weiner (lighting design), Peter Fitzgerald and Carl Casella (sound design), Austin Switser (video design), Michael Westmore (makeup design), Carol F. Doran (hair and wig design) Bob Kretschmer (Rocky's wig design), Steve Margoshes (orchestrations), Jeff Marder for Lionella Productions, Ltd. (electronic music design), Barry Mann (arrangements), Michael Donavan and Jay Binder/Sara Schatz (casting), Joel Goldes (dialect coach), Joe Witt (production stage manager) and Lea Chazin (assistant stage manager).

For more information call (626) 356-PLAY or visit www.Pasadenaplayhouse.org.

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This isn't the only new musical of the Pasadena Playhouse season. Vanities by Jack Heifner (book) and David Kirshenbaum (music and lyrics), directed by Judith Ivey, will run Aug. 22-Sept. 28, prior to Broadway.

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