Playgoers at a Broadway Musical Are Focus of Ambitious New Musical The Audience; Hoty, LaChiusa, Champlin, Cariani Contribute

News   Playgoers at a Broadway Musical Are Focus of Ambitious New Musical The Audience; Hoty, LaChiusa, Champlin, Cariani Contribute The famed Dietz and Schwartz Broadway revue The Bandwagon once offered a view of a musical from the audience's perspective, in a song called "It Better Be Good."

Likewise, Act Two of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Me and Juliet opened with theatregoers in a lounge expressing themselves about the show they had just seen, in a song called "Intermission Talk."

Now, an entire musical will focus on the feelings of playgoers in a new, ambitious full-length show, The Audience, "about an audience watching a Broadway musical." It premieres March 31 Off-Broadway in a 46-actor staging created by Transport Group, the troupe that recently gave us the well-received, Drama Desk Award-nominated New York premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's revised First Lady Suite.

Billed as a "collaboration" that includes many writers, the production is conceived and directed by Transport Group artistic director Jack Cummings III and "developed with" Adam Bock. Broadway's Dee Hoty, Donna Lynne Champlin, Becca Ayers, Herndon Lackey, Rita Gardner and others are part of the cast. Michael John LaChiusa, Jeff Blumenkrantz, Jenny Giering, John Cariani, Ed Dixon and Brian Crawley are among the writers contributing.

Opening night is set for April 10 at Transport Group's favorite digs, the Connelly Theatre on East Fourth Street in the East Village.

Using over 100 people, including dozens of actors at each performance, The Audience is one of the largest Off-Broadway projects to appear in recent memory. According to the Transport announcement, "With multiple storylines and original songs, The Audience is written by 19 playwrights and 22 composers and lyricists—each storyline and song written by a different team—and features a cast of 46 actors."

The new show "takes place on a rainy spring Friday night when one audience ventures to a Broadway theatre to see a new musical," according to Transport Group notes. "The show starts and with it so do a multitude of tensions: Will the audience like it? Will they leave at intermission? Will they kill the lady who unwraps a sourball for what seems like an eternity? Will they be changed in any way by the time of the curtain call? Will they take anything of value away from the experience or will they forget it all and just go about their lives as before? Did they really turn off their cell phones?"

For those looking for a little "art" in this entertainment, Transport Group says the show "examines the creation of community and the struggle to come together in an ever more complex world." (Audiences watching The Audience might agree with Dietz's lyric, however: "It better be gay/It better not be too arty/It better be gay/For this particular party.")

The book, music, and lyrics for The Audience are by Yvonne Adrian, Steven M. Alper, Jeff Blumenkrantz, Adam Bock, Joe Calarco, Mark Campbell, Mary-Mitchell Campbell, John Cariani, Brian Crawley, Ellie Devers, Ed Dixon, Lewis Flinn, Jennifer Gibbs, Jenny Giering, Daphne Greaves, Jeff Hardy, James Hindman, Matt Hoverman, Keith Byron Kirk, Sarah Knapp, Tom Kochan, Michael John LaChiusa, Michele Lowe, Steve Marzullo, Vincent G. Palumbo, David Pittu, Nancy Shayne, David Simpatico, Cheryl Stern, Lee Tannen and Ellen Weiss.

The 46-person cast of The Audience is Dean Alai, Mark Aldrich, Leslie Alexander, Barbara Andres, Mary Ellen Ashley, Becca Ayers, John Braden, Donna Lynne Champlin, Marta Curro, Jack Donahue, Robert DuSold, Matt Farnsworth, Thursday Farrar, Eamon Foley, Jenni Frost, Rita Gardner, Jonathan Hammond, Dee Hoty, MaryAnn Hu, Robyn Hussa, Tina Johnson, Cassandra Kubinski, Herndon Lackey, Duke LaFoon, Sondra Lee, Tom Ligon, Kim Lindsay, Rosemary Loar, Sean MacLaughlin, Gerry McIntyre, Matt Nowosielski, Joanna Parson, Shannon Polly, Michele Ragusa, Jaime Rosenstein, Tracy Rosten, Monica Russell, Mika Saburi, Katie Scharf, Celia Tackaberry, Yuka Takara, Natalie Toro, James Weber, John Wellmann and Craig Wells.

The musical supervisor is Mary-Mitchell Campbell (First Lady Suite); musical director is Barbara Anselmi; orchestrations are by Alden Terry.

The scenic design for The Audience is by John Story; the costume design is by Kathryn Rohe; the lighting design is by R. Lee Kennedy.

The Audience plays Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM and Sunday at 3 PM through April 23 at the Connelly Theatre, 220 East Fourth Street, between Avenues A and B.

Tickets are $19 and are available by phoning (212) 352-3101.

There is no performance on Tuesday April 5 and no matinee on Saturday, April 2. There is a special performance on Monday April 4 at 8 PM and a gala performance on Saturday April 2. For more information about Transport Group and The Audience, visit transport-group.org.

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Founded in 2001 by creative artistic director Jack Cummings III and producing artistic director Robyn Hussa, Transport Group presented its premiere production in 2002: Thornton Wilder's Our Town, which featured older actors in the roles of Emily and George and a 12-year-old girl as the Stage Manager. Transport Group's second production, Requiem for William, an evening of seven seldom produced plays by William Inge, that featured a cast of 26 as well as original songs, premiered in 2003. Last season, Transport Group presented the first New York revival of Michael John LaChiusa's First Lady Suite, which received rave reviews, played to sold-out houses, and earned two Drama Desk Award nominations.

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