Karen Azenberg directs the O. Henry-inspired, Greenwich Village-set romantic musical comedy by BMI Workshop alumni Elaine Chelton (music) and Kenneth Jones (book and lyrics), starting Oct. 2.
The two-week Equity workshop culminates in two public presentations with talkbacks Oct. 16-17 at The Loft Theatre, Human Race's home in downtown Dayton.
When not writing musicals, Chelton is a piano soloist for New York City Ballet and Jones is an editor at Playbill.com. The New Yorkers will be in residence in Dayton, addressing rewrites and refinements with director Azenberg, who staged the first reading of Voice of the City at The York Theatre Company in 2004.
The Voice of the City cast is drawn from Dayton and New York and features Meegan Midkiff, a graduate of Wright State University's musical theatre program, as Sarah, a New York City typing girl whose expectation of marriage to a farmer from Connecticut is viewed as fantasy by her realistic city friends.
"In 1906 Greenwich Village — a world of immigrants and bohemians aware of the changing times — will the community convince Sarah that things can also blossom in the city?" production notes ask. "An O. Henry twist turns the tables in this tuneful coming-of-age tale about grabbing at life rather than sitting around and waiting for it." Sean Michael Flowers will serve as musical director for Voice of the City. He's a veteran of a number of workshops and full productions at The Human Race, including Bat Boy, Moby Dick, Weird Romance, and his own musical, Prometheus Dreams.
The reading cast will include Jamie Cordes, Renee Franck-Reed, Scott Hunt, Deanne Lorette, Matt Neal, Katie Pees, David Sherman, Marya Spring, Scott Stoney, Patricia Linhart and Erin Ulman.
The collaborators met in the BMI Workshop — an important breeding ground for new musical writers in New York City — and initiated and developed Voice of the City there before its first public reading and the recent invitation from Human Race's executive director Kevin Moore.
"The first time I heard the show I knew it was perfect for our workshop process," Moore stated. "Sometimes a show just needs a nurturing environment to find its legs. This one is so close, it will be a delight for our audiences to experience its charm and great storytelling."
"This is a valuable opportunity for us to explore our material in a safe environment, with a company that's passionate about contributing to the future catalog of American musical theatre," writer Jones said. "We set out to write a romantic musical comedy fable in the tradition of works by such giants as Rodgers & Hammerstein and Bock & Harnick and others who cared about rich melodies and universal human yearnings. We think there's still room for terms like 'traditional' and 'old-fashioned' in musicals today. We consider Voice of the City the sort of musical nobody writes anymore — but everyone is dying to see."
Composer Chelton added, "We don't think 'old-fashioned' means 'cardboard.' The score flirts with period and pastiche, but these characters are alive with timeless hopes. And our main character breaks through to a contemporary place that will surprise those expecting a polite old chestnut."
Voice of the City is suggested by the O. Henry story "Springtime a la Carte" (1910).
The second Human Race Musical Theatre Workshop of the 2006-07 season will be Jan. 22 and 29, 2007, when Kay Bosse (Human Race resident artist and recent inductee into the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame) will become the legendary housewife-turned-poet Anne Sexton in the riveting new chamber musical, The Ambition Bird by Matthew Sheridan.
The 2006-07 Human Race mainstage season at The Loft Theatre began Sept. 28 with the first performance of Moonlight and Magnolias, directed by Human Race artistic director Marsha Hanna. The production features Morgan Grahame as Ms. Poppenghul, Tim Lile as Ben Hecht, Richard Marlatt as Victor Fleming and Christopher Sapienza as David O. Selznick.