One-Act Musicals by Bucchino, O'Keefe, Holzman, Evans and Benjamin Get Renewed Life in Philly

News   One-Act Musicals by Bucchino, O'Keefe, Holzman, Evans and Benjamin Get Renewed Life in Philly Three previously produced one-act musicals — including shows by the songwriters of Broadway's Legally Blonde and Wicked book writer Winnie Holzman — will be glued together for the first time for a unique theatre experience in Philadelphia this spring.

"Back 2 Back 2 Back" is the name of the six-day run of a program premiering April 20 at The University of the Arts, presented by the UArts School of Theater Arts (SOTA) at the Arts Bank Theater.

Charles Gilbert, SOTA professor and head of the SOTA Musical Theater program since its inception in 1990, will direct the trilogy. Each one-act has been previously produced, but "Back 2 Back 2 Back" is the first time they have been presented as a trilogy:

  • Lavender Girl, John Bucchino's "lyrical mystery about a ghost who becomes the belle of a Southern ball in the '20s," was produced as part of a show called 3hree that premiered at the Prince Music Theater in 2000. Bucchino's songs, including "Grateful" and "Better Than I," are well-known to contemporary musical theatre fans.
  • Back to Back, the second piece on the bill, is by composer David Evans and writer Winnie Holzman, Wicked librettist and creator of the ABC TV series "My So-Called Life." Holzman and Evans also wrote the Off-Broadway musical Birds of Paradise. Their one-act is billed as "a quirky duologue sung by two urban strangers who share the same therapist."

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  • The Mice, the final show in the trilogy, is the creation of Nell Benjamin and Larry O'Keefe, the married songwriters responsible for the Off-Broadway musical Bat Boy and Broadway's new Legally Blonde, currently in previews. Also from 3hree, "this show tells the story of the town exterminator in Chippewa Falls, Minnesota and the mousy housewife with whom he has an affair." Adapted from Sinclair Lewis' short story "Allan Cedar and Virga Vay" by librettist Julia Jordan, The Mice "is a quirky tale of two lovers who are willing to go to any extreme to be together." Gilbert's recent directing credits include Anyone Can Whistle at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia, as well as productions at Gretna Theater and the Philadelphia Area Repertory Theater. His 1979 musical Assassins was the source of the idea for the Tony Award-winning musical of the same name, and when he directed the Philadelphia premiere of the Sondheim-Weidman Assassins, the production was voted one of the top 10 of its season.

    Gilbert said in production notes, "Though the three musicals take place in different worlds, they share the common characteristics of people seeking an intimate connection – soul reaching out to soul – in a world that puts unnecessary barriers in the way of that attempt."

    Other members of the production team include choreographer Nancy Berman Kantra and music director Owen Robbins, also members of the UArts Theater Arts faculty. Sets are designed by Marka Suber, lights by Janet Embree and costumes by Anna Oldham.

    Orchestrations for Lavender Girl and The Mice are by the late Michael Gibson (The Wild Party and Cabaret). Composer Evan Solot, head of the UArts composition department, was commissioned to create orchestrations for Back to Back.

    Performances of "Back 2 Back 2 Back" play the Arts Bank Theater, 601 S. Broad St., April 20-22 and 26-28. Evening performances will be presented at 8 PM on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 PM.

    Reservations can be made by calling the SOTA box office at (215) 545-1664.

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    The University of the Arts is the nation's first and only university dedicated to the visual, performing and communication arts. Its 2,300 students are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs on its campus in the heart of Philadelphia's Avenue of the Arts. Its history as a leader in educating creative individuals spans more than 130 years.