Philly's Arden Theatre Stages East Coast Premiere of Musical Winesburg, Ohio

News   Philly's Arden Theatre Stages East Coast Premiere of Musical Winesburg, Ohio Winesburg, Ohio, a new acclaimed musical previously seen in Chicago, finds an East Coast home at Philadelphia's Arden Theatre Company Oct. 6-Nov. 6.

Based on the classic novel by Sherwood Anderson, the book and lyrics were written by Eric Rosen with music and additional lyrics by Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman and was conceived by and developed in collaboration with Jessica Thebus.

Arden's producing artistic director Terrence J. Nolen directs. Opening is Oct. 11.

The show is billed as "a startling and unconventional musical journey that explores what lies beneath the 'normal' exterior of a small American town."

Winesburg, Ohio was originally commissioned as a one-act piece by Steppenwolf Theatre Company's Arts Exchange Program and was then further developed with support from Steppenwolf in association with Eric Rosen's About Face Theatre Company.

In June 2004 Winesburg, Ohio received its world premiere at Steppenwolf and was nominated for six Joseph Jefferson Awards, including Best Musical, Best New Work, Best Original Music and Best Adaptation, for which it won the award. Most recently, Winesburg, Ohio was chosen to participate as one of eight musicals in the prestigious National Alliance for Musical Theatre Festival for New Musicals in September 2004.

A five-piece orchestra led by Chicago-based musical director Thomas Murray will accompany the 13-member cast that includes Derin Altay, Kim Carson, Ben Dibble, Dawn Falato, Tony Freeman, Darren Michael Hengst, Brian Hissong, Elisa Matthews, Peter Schmitz, Phoebe Silva, William Zielinski and original Winesburg, Ohio cast members Lesley Bevan and Andrew White.

The design team includes scenic designer Daniel Ostling (whose set design for Metamorphoses was nominated for a Tony), costume designer Rosemarie McKelvey, lighting designer Dennis Parichy and sound designer Jorge Cousineau.

How did Winesburg, Ohio — the musical — come about?

"I was committed to create a play based on 'Winesburg, Ohio' and I knew there would be music in the show," Rosen, who wrote the book and lyrics, said in production notes. "I came up with a very simple lyric, repeated a thousand times in the show. It gave me new ideas for other kinds of songs – ballads, patter songs, lyric opera, art songs – as ways to tell all of the stories in the town. That gave us a way to depict the joy and suffering of a normal American town, in deep, powerful, emotional songs, without having the characters confess their inner thoughts to anyone else. So it became a musical."

Arden director Nolen said in production notes, "When I first heard Winesburg, Ohio, I immediately wanted to produce this brilliant new piece at the Arden. In Winesburg, Ohio so many of my passions come together: it is a luminous adaptation by an exciting team of writers seeking to take the musical form in new directions. This Winesburg, Ohio is a beautiful telling of the most remarkable Sherwood Anderson stories, and we are thrilled to be producing the East coast premiere. We're also pleased that the writers will be in residence throughout the rehearsal process, continuing to refine their vision through this production."

Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman, writers of the music and additional lyrics, are both artistic associates at About Face Theatre. They wrote the music for Metamorphoses and have received six Joseph Jefferson Awards and Citations, an L.A. Ovation Award and Drama Critics Circle Award and a Lortel nomination for composition and sound design.

For more information, call (215) 922-1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org.

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