Cats may be closing in September, but the era of Puppies may just be beginning.
Composer-lyricist Jerome Hughes is testing his new two-person "canine cabaret," Puppies, at Don't Tell Mama in New York City Oct. 5, 6 and 8. Unlike the Andrew Lloyd Webber mega-musical, actors play genuine people in Hughes' concept show, about a couple tentatively approaching the idea of parenthood. As a test, they get a puppy first.
Amy Schmidt and David Cornue, who sang Hughes' piece in its development in the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop in 1999-2000, play the man and the woman in the world premiere. Hughes is at the piano. Lennie Watts directs.
Observers have regarded Hughes' project as a sort of fusion between musical theatre and 20th century chamber opera, and the quirky, comic, ruminative Puppies (once called Dogs) touches not just on the idea of parenting, but commitment, relationships, mortality and more.
"I've been thinking about it since 1997," Hughes told Playbill On-Line. "I had written a couple songs and I wasn't sure what the show was about so I put it away." Hughes, 35, who is married with a baby son, remembers wanting a dog so badly when he was young that he walked 10 miles through Queens, NY, to visit an animal shelter. As an adult, he now has a golden retriever. "The show uses my own experience as a stepping off point," he admits.
The hourlong show offers 11 songs, including "The Best One," "Your Turn," "Puppies in the Summer Sun," "The Alpha," "We're Your Family Now," "Nothing But Grief" and "Bring It On."
Hughes, who was raised in Queens and lives in New Rochelle, earned a bachelor's degree in music and a master's in composition from Queens College. He is an artist in residence at HERE in Manhattan.
Schmidt, a singer-songwriter, appeared in Something Else (with Cornue as a special guest) at Judy's in Manhattan in 1999.
Puppies has a $10 cover plus a two-drink minimum. Performances are 8 PM Oct. 5-6 and 7 PM Oct. 8. Don't Tell Mama is at 343 W. 46th Street in Manhattan. Reservations are recommended. Call (212) 757-0788.
-- By Kenneth Jones