HRTC executive director Kevin Moore directs the workshop of the once and future musical by David Spangler and Rick Gore, which is based on a concept by Christopher Gore. Both Spangler and Rick Gore have been in residence in Dayton for recent rehearsals, making tweaks and refinements to their historical romantic musical, first seen in the 1970s.
In 2005, the show was announced to be aimed for Broadway. In the past two years, the work has had regional productions at venues from Chicago to Florida. A full production first appeared in Chicago in 1977. Major changes to script and score have taken place over the years.
"Nefertiti travels back in time to 1364 BC when one headstrong Egyptian woman — Nefertiti — sacrifices her newfound love to marry a king," according to HRTC. "Together, the three form an unlikely alliance for the good of the land. Guided by her strong sense of duty and her kindness towards the people, they work to change the old customs and build a new world until natural disasters and sinister political forces threaten to topple their kingdom and erase them from history."
The Human Race workshop includes a trio of artists who appeared in Florida Parker Playhouse production of Nefertiti — Alan H. Green, Ann Crumb and Avery Sommers. Ebony Blake plays the title character in Ohio.
Music directors/orchestrators are Nils-Petter Ankarblom and Karl-Johan Ankarblom. Stage manager is Raynelle Wright. The cast in order of appearance includes Aaron Vega as Smenkhare, Alan H. Green as Hap, Ann Crumb as Tiye, Gil Martin as Aye, Kevin Moore as Shabak, Reneé Franck-Reed as Nesu, Ebony Blake as Nefertiti, Avery Sommers as Penmut, Jeremy Cleary as Young Tut, Scott Hunt as Akhenaten, Adam Brown as Tut, Mary Kate O'Neill as Daughter, Erin Ulman as Daughter, with Shavey Brown, Jamie Cordes, K.J. Hippensteel, Katie Pees, Shayna Desireé Shurelds, J.J. Tiemeyer and Kristina Wilson.
Performances of Nefertiti: A Musical Romance are April 24–26 at the Loft Theatre. All tickets are $15.
"Dreams do come true," HRTC's Moore said in a statement. "I have loved this musical for so many years and it seemingly disappeared. I still have the very-rare LP record that I got in New York for a ridiculous amount of money in the early 1980s. When the Victoria Theatre re-opened in January 1981, the opening song 'Someone Is Here' came from Nefertiti. I think we were destined to be part of it."
He added, "The writers contacted us and asked if I was familiar with the musical Nefertiti. I think my heart skipped a beat."
According to HRTC, the origin of Nefertiti goes back to when Christopher Gore (Academy Award-nominated screenwriter of "Fame") was a struggling writer in New York. He began writing a play about the Pharaoh Akhenaten, which he always viewed as a musical (even writing lyrics for it). He met composer David Spangler and shared his work, and soon they began collaborating on it. It was called Brothers at the time and concerned pharoah siblings.
The piece had a workshop production at La Mama Theatre in New York in 1976 and got the attention of Broadway producer Sherwin Goldman and director Jack O'Brien. After some intensive work sessions, the new musical had a new name: Nefertiti.
In September 1977, Nefertiti began a run in Chicago with the hopes of moving to Broadway, but that never happened. A cast album was recorded, helping give the show a cult status.
Gore died in 1988. His brother, Rick, was committed to keeping Christopher's dream alive, and met with Spangler and the two began revamping the show. Years of working on and off in workshops and readings led to a full production in May 2005 at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale directed by Robert Johanson, former artistic director of New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse.
The Human Race workshop has allowed "the writers a chance to hear some of the changes they have made in the show since then," said Kevin Moore. "It's the obvious step before their next full production."
"Those familiar with our Musical Theatre Workshops productions will notice this is a very large cast," Moore stated. "With only 10 days of rehearsal, these 20 actors will have their work cut out for them. It's definitely a labor of love."
Established in 1999, the Human Race's Musical Theatre Workshops program "is designed to develop original musicals, to provide an avenue for that very important 'second production' and to encourage appreciation of rarely produced musicals."
The Human Race Theatre Company's production of Nefertiti: A Musical Romance will be presented at the Loft Theatre 7 PM April 24, 25 and 26. The Loft Theatre is located on the third floor of the Metropolitan Arts Center, next to the Victoria Theatre at 126 North Main Street in downtown Dayton.
For more information about The Human Race Theatre Company and the Musical Theatre Workshops program, visit www.humanracetheatre.org.
Human Race Theatre Company moved to the Metropolitan Arts Center in 1991, taking up residence at The Loft, a 219-seat theatre. In addition to the Humana Loft Series 1, produced in collaboration with the Victoria Theatre Association, The Human Race produces the Humana Loft Series 2, the Musical Theatre Workshop series and special event programming. The Human Race is under the direction of artistic director Marsha Hanna and executive director Kevin Moore.