The Overture Theatre Company, the New York City troupe created by Barry Harman and Harve Brosten to develop and produce original stage musicals, starts its first season of full stagings Nov. 21 with Harman and Kathy Sommer's Long Road Home, about a battered woman's journey back to faith.
The staging, under the direction of lyricist-librettist Harman, begins previews Nov. 16 and continues to Dec. 17 at the Hudson Guild Theatre. Tony Award nominee Brenda Braxton (Smokey Joe's Cafe) stars.
The show is part of an inaugural Overture season that will include three new musicals, under the umbrella title, "Provocative Women." Other shows scheduled for this season are Femme Fatale, a new "mysterious musical" based on the Wilkie Collins novel, "The Haunted Hotel," which features a musical score by Keith Herrmann and book and lyrics by Harman, which will open in mid-February 2001; and Songbirds, targeted for an April 2001 opening, which will celebrate the popular song hits and standards written by female lyricists. Overture previously presented a staged reading of Femme Fatale, in February 2000.
Harman, who also directs Long Road Home, was nominated for a Tony Award for Romance/Romance; he also wrote Olympus On My Mind and Telecast. Composer Kathy Sommer is a well-known Broadway music director and conductor whose credits include City of Angels and the current Beauty and the Beast. Musical staging is by D.J. Salisbury.
The five-member company of Long Road Home also includes Saundra McClain, Joseph Siravo ("The Sopranos"), Charles Gray and Jamie Danielle Jackson. Long Road Home is called "a contemporary story that takes place in a church of unspecified denomination in a backwater town in Tennessee, south of Memphis. It is a hand clapping, life-affirming story of a battered woman's journey back to her faith, laced with enough sex, rock and rhythm 'n blues to keep even a heathen satisfied."
Although the musical deals with such serious issues as spousal abuse and alcoholism, it is said to be buoyed by a pop music score that includes ballads, up-tempo numbers and heart warming gospel and blues."
Designers are Toni Leslie James (costumes), Merope Vachlioti (set), Kenneth Schutz (lighting). Wendy Cavett is the music director of a four-member band.
Braxton appeared in Broadway's Smokey Joe's Café, Jelly's Last Jam, Cats, Legs Diamond and the original production of Dreamgirls. Charles Gray has appeared in numerous venues from Royal Albert Hall to Carnegie Hall, and recently appeared on Broadway in Grease. Jamie Danielle Jackson, a recent graduate of Rutgers University's M.F.A. acting program, is making her New York professional debut. Saundra McClain's 25-year acting career has included performing in many Broadway and Off Broadway productions, including Bubbling Brown Sugar, For Colored Girls…, Seven Guitars and The River Niger. Joseph Siravo can be seen as Johnny Soprano in HBO's "The Sopranos," has numerous New York stage credits, including Conversations With My Father on Broadway and the recent revival of Gemini Off-Broadway.
Tickets are $40-$55. Hudson Guild Theatre is at 441 West 26th Street in Manhattan.
For ticket information, call (212) 279-4200, or try Overture Theatre Company at (212) 479-8575 or visit the website at www.overturetheatre.com.
Robert R. Blume, a veteran New York stage producer and executive producer of the annual Drama Desk Awards Show, is managing director of the Overture Theatre Company. Lynn Pell is the theatre company's events director.
Overture producing director and founder Brosten, who produced Olympus on My Mind Off-Broadway and Romance/Romance on Broadway and off, has been attached to Femme Fatale since lyricist-librettist director Harman came up with the idea of a musical version of Collins’ Victorian potboiler, "The Haunted Hotel."
Harman wrote Romance/Romance with Herrmann and the pair reunite for the "Haunted Hotel" rewrite, seen in a February 2000 workshop-reading by Overture.
Doing a piece by proven writers, who are friends and colleagues of Brosten's, was a way to bring attention to the new company, but Brosten previously told Playbill On-Line the work of many writers will be considered in the future. He also hopes to have his own theatre space one day. The new startup troupe recalls the early days of The Drama Dept., which began with readings and graduated to full productions in a home venue in New York City.
— By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz