Philly Composer Charles Gilbert Working With Innaurato on Gemini, the Musical

News   Philly Composer Charles Gilbert Working With Innaurato on Gemini, the Musical A musical version of Albert Innaurato's hit Broadway play, Gemini, will premiere in June 2004 at Philadelphia's Prince Music Theater, with libretto and lyrics by the playwright and music and lyrics by Philadelpha composer Charles Gilbert.

The expected new musical (bowing June 12 at the Prince) is not the same take on the 1977 source material that Innaurato previously explored with composer-lyricist Kevin Carter, whose version was heard in Manhattan readings in 2002 and 2003 under the direction of Robert Cronin of Ergo Theatre Company.

Prince artistic director Marjorie Samoff told Playbill On-Line that Innaurato "wasn't wholly convinced" that the earlier musical version "was the right way to go" with the material, and provided an introduction between the playwright and a new composer, Gilbert, who heads the musical theatre program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

"It is much closer to the play than the other version was: It's building out from the play, so it's definitely a book musical but it has a huge amount of music," Samoff said of the developing Prince Gemini, which is being put together more hastily than most musicals (less than a year), but Samoff said she likes to get work up in front of an audience rather than work it to death in workshops.

Like the play, the Prince Gemini will have specific opera references in it, Samoff said. The actor playing the Maria Callas-obsessed gay college kid, Francis, will have a "legit" voice.

"For me, the chance to work with Albert on it, and to really give Albert the freedom to do it the way he wanted seemed like the right thing," Samoff said. "I've been a fan of Albert's for a long time. I've tried to work with him over the years as he's one of Philadelphia's most gifted playwrights — and he's someone who's very musical. He writes about opera all the time." Although the show is not enjoying a multi-year gestation period before its first full production, it doesn't mean Gemini is new to the composer. According to Samoff, "It happens that the composer has been interested in doing a musical based on Gemini for years, and had been working on it. We provided the introduction, but Charlie has been interested in the material for a long time."

The Philadelphia-set show "is a natural" for the Prince and the composer, who lives in South Philly, where the play is set. "This seems like a great opportunity for a born-in Philadelphia musical," Samoff said.

The show will remain set in the 1970s. Samoff admits that the coming-out-of-the-closet, coming-of-age story is "not nearly as radical" today "but there's a profound father-son story and a journey that is universal."

The first private reading of the show will be in January 2004, Samoff said. Musical director for the project is Eric Ebbenge. Douglas C. Wager will direct the show.

Performances of Gemini, the musical, are set to play the Prince Music Theater June 12-July 3, 2004.

Here's how the Prince website (www.princemusictheater.org) bills the show: "Based on the Obie Award-winning and long-running Broadway play of the same name, Gemini takes you back to the raucous, colorful world of South Philly in the 1970s. Home from Harvard for summer vacation, Francis Geminani is a hapless 20-year-old with a secret. Peace and quiet are hard to come by in the midst of his loud, but loving family and neighbors. And when his two WASPy friends from school pay a surprise visit for his birthday, his two worlds collide in unexpected and hilarious ways. With its larger than-life characters and a '70s flavored original score that takes you from disco to power rock to opera, Gemini is sure to charm you no matter what your sign."

According to his website, www.chasgilbert.com, "composer, lyricist and dramatist Charles Gilbert is a writer, director, composer and educator who specializes in the musical theatre. Currently associate professor and head of the musical theatre program at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Gilbert has worked with National Music Theater Network, Prince Music Theater (formerly the American Music Theater Festival), Gretna Theater, Delaware Theater Company, Opera Delaware, Covered Bridge Theater and other professional theatres as director or musical director for a variety of musical productions.

"Among his credits as a writer and composer is the 1979 musical Assassins, source of the idea for the Stephen Sondheim musical which premiered in New York in 1991.

His musical B.G.D.F. was seen in New York in 1983 in a showcase starring Gregg Edelman. His children's musical, A Is for Anything, commissioned by the Delaware Institute for the Arts in Education, has been performed nearly a hundred times for thousands of children in Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware, and was selected as a finalist in the Buxton Quest for New Musicals in 1992. His cabaret revue, Watch The Birdie, was performed at Don't Tell Mama in New York and The Actors Center in Philadelphia in 1993, and a revised version was presented at the Philadelphia Arts Banks and the Douglas Fairbanks Theater in 1998."

Gilbert holds an MFA in directing from Carnegie Mellon University and is a former member of the BMI Musical Theater Workshop.

Composer-lyricist Kevin Carter's mothballed version of Gemini began at the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. Robert Cronin, who directed the New York readings of that version, previously told Playbill On-Line that when Carter first approached Innaurato about a musical version, the playwright said the composer-librettist should start from scratch and treat the work as if it were new. With that in mind, the Carter version focuses more on the trio of friends than the extended family, Cronin said.

A disappointed Kevin Carter told Playbill On-Line in a summer 2003 e-mail, "For a year and a half I was working on a musical adaptation of Albert Innaurato's Gemini with the help of Mr. Innaurato himself.  He and I had no formal agreement securing our collaboration, only a gentleman's agreement."

Gemini was originally produced by Circle Repertory Company in 1977 and then moved to Broadway playing 1,778 performances.

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