Michael Greif directs the Page to Stage project that launches the company's "The Edge" series at the Mandell Weiss Forum. The workshop runs through Oct. 14.
With music by Bennett, a book by Hagedorn and lyrics by both, Most Wanted is "loosely inspired by the life and crimes of murderer Andrew Cunanan," according to a release. The La Jolla Playhouse commission "explores our society's obsession with wealth, fame and cult of celebrity. In the wake of the media frenzy surrounding the brutal murder of one of the world's premier fashion designers, drag queens, divas and dandies all gather to take us on a kaleidoscopic journey through high fashion, glossy magazines, low dives, and into the mind of a young killer."
Playing the central role of Danny Reyes is Daniel Torres (The Pirate Queen, The Woman in White, Altar Boyz) opposite the storytelling drag queen Stormy Leather, who is played by Ken Page (Cats, Ain't Misbehavin').
Also featured in the cast are Arthur Acuña (Wig Out, Dogeaters) as Danny's father Lee Reyes and fashion designer Apolo Serra; Merle Dandridge (Rent, Tarzan, Aida) as reporter Elizabeth Mitchell; Zandi De Jesus (UCSD graduate A Night On Broadway) as Danny's sister Angie Reyes; Danny Gurwin (Little Women, Urinetown, The Full Monty) as Danny's lover Chris Bailey and Serra's lover Javier Luna; and Leah Hocking (Mamma Mia!, Hairspray, All Shook Up) as Danny's mother Teresa and Serra's mother Apolonia.
Michael Grant Hall (Tartuffe, Palm Beach), Kathleen Halm (Norma, Carmina Burana), Peter Kapetan (The Wedding Singer, Titanic), David Nathan Perlow (Tisch School of the Arts graduate, High School Musical) and Michael Winther ("The Break-Up," "Mr. and Mrs. Smith") round out the ensemble. Bennett and Hagedorn previously teamed on Dogeaters, the stage adaptation of Hagedorn's novel, which was also directed by Greif in 1998 at La Jolla.
Of the hot-button topic on which the musical is based, Bennett explained in a statement, "It's our hope that the piece is a springboard for conversation about a number of issues. The life of Cunanan is really only the launch pad that allows us to explore all the ideas that interest Jessica and me. There's a lot in the play about America and the seductiveness of a variety of things — be it celebrity, money, power, fame — and, well, here's a story that opens up a discussion all about that."
For Hagedorn, the important issue being addressed is "the question of why this culture of celebrity is so prevalent today. And how do people of color play into that? This play explores the dark side of the American dream. What does it really mean to be a person of color in this country? What does being American mean? Does it mean you are fine if you are famous?"
Musicians in the production include Charlie Alterman (conductor/keyboard), Don York (associate conductor/keyboard), Simon Kafka (guitar), Benjamin Campbell (bass) and Tim McMahon (percussion). Music director and arranger is Charlie Alterman. Orchestrations are by Dan Lipton.
Javier Velasco handles choreography. The design team features Steven C. Kemp (scenic), Clint Ramos (costume), Tom Ontiveros (lighting) and Philip G. Allen (sound). Shirley Fishman serves as dramaturg. The stage manager is J. Philip Bassett.
"The Edge" series, which Most Wanted inaugurates, will include projects "produced outside of the subscription season [that] encompass bold new works being created in the theatre today by established artists or up-and-coming directors, playwrights and theatre ensembles who are investigating new theatrical territory." The musical is also part of the Playhouse's Page to Stage new play development program: Developing productions "will feature minimal sets and costumes, and will be revised throughout its entire process, including performances."
Tickets to Most Wanted at La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive (on the corner Torrey Pines Road) in La Jolla, CA, are on sale by calling (858) 550-1010. For more information on the company visit lajollaplayhouse.org.