Off-B'way Promise Uses Larson Songs, Sept. 10-27

News   Off-B'way Promise Uses Larson Songs, Sept. 10-27 A musical with songs by the late Jonathan Larson will come to Off Broadway's McGinn/Cazale theatre space, Sept. 10-27.

A musical with songs by the late Jonathan Larson will come to Off Broadway's McGinn/Cazale theatre space, Sept. 10-27.

Titled I Make Me A Promise, the show incorporates songs from a 1993 children's musical Larson (of Rent renown) wrote with Hal Hackady called Blocks. Extra songs, by Christine Talbott, have also been added.

Just before the opening night performance, Sept. 10, original Rent cast members Anthony Rapp and Gilles Chiasson (the latter now in The Scarlet Pimpernel) will sit on a special panel discussion about Larson and his work. Hackady will also be on the panel, as will Karen Butler, who first commissioned Blocks, Theatre Projects at Housing Works artistic director Victoria McElwaine, and other friends and colleagues of the late composer. According to spokesperson Michael Hartman (of Boneau/Bryan-Brown), Larson's parents will also be on-hand for the opening night of Promise, which begins with a 6 PM reception, followed by the 6:30 PM panel and 7:30 PM performance. Tickets for the benefit evening are $100.

The show is being mounted by The Theatre Project at Housing Works, a social service organization providing housing and services to formerly homeless persons with AIDS/HIV. "We help house people. It's a really exciting place," said spokesperson Valerie Gramling. "We do about two original musicals a year. This one's a bit different because it came about through one of our board members, who has a connection to Broadway Arts." (Broadway Arts/Theatre For Young Audiences donated the use of songs by Jonathan Larson and Hal Hackady.) "We give our clients a voice and a chance to tell of their lives and experiences," said Gramling. "All our productions deal with the crisis they live."

Asked about I Make Me A Promise, Gramling said the organization had wanted to do a teen-oriented show, so the Larson material fit right in. Promise escore will be backed by recorded music. The show's book is written by children of formerly homeless people living with AIDS/HIV. Some of those children will perform, though Gramling told Playbill On-Line the company is also trying to get people involved in both Blocks and Rent to do the project. (For example, Rent's Anthony Rapp also appeared in Blocks.)

Announced so far for the Promise cast will be Alex Camacho, Jennifer Filpo, Haydee Jimenez, George Lavezzary, Ebony McJunkin, Rashita McJunkin, Stephanie Negron, Ramon Soto, Adjuwa Thomas.

Productions by the Housing Works' Theatre Project -- now in its tenth season -- are developed through six-month workshops and discussions. This particular show was created by teens, now housed, who either suffered with their parents through homelessness and AIDS or were placed in foster care or found themselves on the streets.

Victoria McElwaine, artistic director of Theatre Project, will stage Promise, which has sets by Elaine Sabal, costumes by Q Ebesu [sic] and lighting by Helen McCullough.

I Make Me A Promise plays at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, a space ordinarily reserved for the Second Stage Theatre -- though this is not a Second Stage production. For tickets ($15) and information call (212) 239-6200.

--By David Lefkowitz

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