The New York City Center's acclaimed "Encores!" series will launch its fifth anniversary season Feb. 12-15 with a performance of the George and Ira Gershwin musical Strike Up the Band.
Li'l Abner, and St. Louis Woman will be the other two musicals to get an airing on the celebrated series devoted to presenting vintage Broadway scores in concert stagings.
Strike up the Band, the satire about a war between the U.S. and Switzerland, with book by George S. Kauffman, closed out of town in Philadelphia in 1927. A revised version, with an overhauled book by Morrie Ryskind, opened on Broadway in 1930 and enjoyed a moderate run of 191 performances.
According to Artistic Director Kathleen Marshall, the 1927 Kauffman script will serve as a basis for the Encores! presentation, though the artistic team "may possibly interpolate" songs from the 1930 version, which includes such classics as "Soon" and "I've Got a Crush on You". Regarding the Strike Up the Band recording released in 1991 by the Gershwin Estate's Roxbury Recordings, Marshall "was not sure" how much of Tommy Krasker's restoration would be used in the Encores! production. Following the Gershwins into City Center will be Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul's Li'l Abner, playing March 26-29. The 1956 show, with book by Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, starred Edith Adams and Peter Palmer in the musical version of Al Capp's daily comic strip. Running just short of 700 performances, Li'l Abner features such classic songs as "If I Had My Druthers" and "The Country's in the Very Best of Hands."
Johnny Mercer's lyrics will also be heard in Encores' final show of the season, St. Louis Woman (Apr. 30-May 3). With music by Harold Arlen and book by Arna Bontemps and Countee Cullen, Woman will be a huge undertaking for the City Center team, which will reconstruct the score from an audio recording. Back in January, musical director Rob Fisher told Playbill On-Line that St. Louis Woman was high on the list of shows to get the Encores! treatment despite the effort and expense the choice would entail. With a score that includes "Riding on the Moon" and other Arlen classics, the original 1946 production ran just 113 performances.
Casting and artistic personnel have not been announced for any of the other 1998 Encores! productions.
Due to the popularity of the series, subscriptions are not being offered at this time; single tickets ($25-$55), however, may be purchased by calling 212-581-1212.