Encores! revives old musicals throughout the winter and spring, but May 25-June 3 there will be Premieres, an inaugural season of staged readings of new musicals in development. The first three shows will be Darrah Cloud and Kim D. Sherman's HeartLand, Ed Dixon's Richard Cory and Noa Ain and Gerard Edery's Song of the Turtledove.
In HeartLand, the cast of seven includes a mother who calls her three daughters back to Moscow, Iowa, during a period of family crisis, which begins to consume them all. In a clear parallel to Chekhov's Three Sisters, the sisters in HeartLand encounter similar circumstances to those experienced by Chekhov characters. HeartLand has already received productions with Goodspeed Opera House and Palo Alto's TheatreWorks.
Dixon, whose composer-lyricist credits include Shylock, Fanny Hill and Cather County, first attracted playwright A.R. Gurney's attention with the latter piece during a reading at New York City's Playwrights Horizons. Gurney was taken with the style, which reminded him of what he wanted his play Richard Cory to be and he asked Dixon to musicalize the play. It was Gurney's idea that the Cory character would speak, not sing, his lines in the musical.
The short poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson and play follow the gentleman Cory through his 1930s hometown, where he is successful and respected, but there is something terribly wrong in the life the townspeople see as perfect. As Robinson wrote: "So on we worked, and waited for the light, /And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;/ And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,/ Went home and put a bullet through his head."
The Song of the Turtledove takes its title from the Biblical "Song of Songs." A collection of love poems, it traces the burgeoning passion of King Solomon and his bride as they arrive at the consummation of their relationship. Turtledove is told through a mix of classical American jazz and Arabic, Flamenco and Jewish music. HeartLand plays May 25-28; Richard Cory, May 25-May 27 and Song of the Turtledove plays May 31-June 3.
Premiere memberships are $50 and include tickets to the readings plus panel discussions, cabarets and workshops throughout the year. To order, call (212) 206-1515.
— By Christine Ehren