The first notes of a new John Kander-Fred Ebb score will be heard Jan. 6 when Over & Over has its world-premiere first preview at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA.
The tiny, 136-seat theatre has some big names attached to this musical version of Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth: Dorothy Loudon as Lulu Shriner, choreographer Bob Avian (A Chorus Line), book writer Joseph Stein (Fiddler on the Roof) and, of course, songwriters Kander and Ebb, who penned Cabaret, Chicago, Zorba, Kiss of the Spider Woman and more.
Despite the small venue, the staging is a kind of Broadway tryout, even if Signature managing director Paul Gamble said he and his nonprofit company are focused only on the Arlington staging. He said commercial producers do not have money in the sold-out Signature run.
A spokesperson at New York producer David Stone's office confirmed Stone as the Over & Over Broadway option holder, and industry insiders have known of Stone's interest since 1998. A cautious Stone, deferring to the nonprofit's work, told Playbill On-Line (Jan. 5), "I don't want to comment on [a Broadway future]. It's a Signature Theatre production right now."
Stone's producing work includes Full Gallop, The Diary of Anne Frank, Santaland Diaries and other productions. If Over & Over were to somehow come to New York by spring, as some insiders are speculating, it would arrive in a somewhat soft season that so far lacks a mega hit (like The Lion King or Ragtime last season). So far, the musicals Footloose, Parade, Fosse and The Civil War -- and the play-with-music, Band in Berlin -- are on the official Broadway musical schedule in 1998-99.
Producer Stone said he would comment on Over & Over in February 1999.
In Over & Over, Sherie Scott, a rising actress who recently played Amneris in Disney's tryout of Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida, has the plum role of Sabina, maid to the Antrobus household in the absurdism-flecked story. Scott replaced Bebe Neuwirth in rehearsals Dec. 21, 1998, just two weeks before the Jan. 6, 1999 first show of the sold out run (to Feb. 21). "Artistic differences" between director Eric D. Schaeffer and Neuwirth (Chicago) were cited.
Sabina is the maid and narrator in the musical's Pulitzer Prize-winning source material. In Wilder's allegory for human resilience, the Antrobus family survives disasters and dramatic changes of Biblical proportions.
Official Signature opening, said managing director Gamble, is Feb. 4, 1999 following rewrites and changes based on audience response. Gamble had previously said Jan. 27, 1999 would be the first week D.C.-area media would be let in, and that the show was expected to be "frozen" -- with no more artistic changes -- Jan. 19, 1999. He told Playbill On-Line (Jan. 5) that since this is a new work and the molding of it is continuous, the Feb. 4 "opening" date may change.
Also in the company are Linda Emond (Mrs. Antrobus), David Garrison (Mr. Antrobus), Megan Lawrence (Gladys), Jim Newman (Henry), Mario Cantone (Bob), Sharon Wilkins (Fortune Teller), Lawrence Redmond (Socrates), Hugh Nees (Homer), Thomas Adrian Simpson (Moses), Bruce Nelson (Jesus), Richard Pelzman (Mammoth), Karl Christian, Kenneth J. Ewing Jr., Daniel Felton, Jason Gilbert, Marc Oka, R. Scott Thompson, Johanna Gerry, Erika Lynn Rupli, Jennifer Swiderski.
Scott, a "quick study," according to Schaeffer, has appeared on Broadway as Maureen in Rent, Sally Simpson in The Who's Tommy and Marty in Grease. She was also Martha in Randy Newman's Faust at the La Jolla Playhouse and the Goodman Theatre.
Loudon might be best known as the original Miss Hannigan in Annie. Schaeffer directed her in the concert version of Jerome Kern's Sweet Adeline for Encores! in New York City.
Over & Over songs in previews will include "Eat the Ice Cream," "The Wheel," "Nice People," "I Can See the Future," "The Promise," "The Skin of Our Teeth" and "At the Rialto."
Designers are Howell Binkley (lights), Lou Stancari (sets), Anne Kennedy (costumes), David Maddox (sound). Orchestrations are by Michael Gibson, musical direction is by Patrick Vaccariello, the conductor is Jim Laev.
Over & Over had a reading in spring 1998 in New York City under Schaeffer's direction, with Michele Pawk as Sabina. Bernadette Peters played Sabina in an earlier reading, not associated with Signature.
The Signature (established in 1989) previously presented Cabaret and a revised version of Kander and Ebb's The Rink, among many other shows, including new plays (such as fall 1998's Nijinsky's Last Dance) and revivals of Stephen Sondheim musicals (a lauded Passion, among others).
The original run of Over & Over was to be Jan. 6-Feb. 14, but a one week extension to Feb. 21 was announced. The 1,000 or so available tickets sold out within 15 minutes of being on sale, according to Gamble. Any available tickets -- unused or returned -- will be available one hour prior to curtain at the box office.
Signature Theatre is at 3806 S. Four Mile Run Drive in Arlington. For upcoming show information, call Pro Tix at (703) 218-6500 or (800) 955 5566.
-- By Kenneth Jones