The cast of the Mark Twain-inspired show, being revived following a 2002 run in the same historic Manhattan Theatre, includes Dennis Michael Hall (The Full Monty) as Prince Edward, Jimmy Dieffenbach (Ragtime) as Tom Canty, Allison Fischer (A Christmas Carol) as Lady Jane, with Wayne Schroeder as Hugh Hendon, Leslie Castay as Lady Edith, Dan Sharkey as John Canty, Sally Wilfert as Mary Canty, Roland Rusinek as Hermit and Dresser, James Hindman as Father Andrew and Amy Goldberger as Annie.
The company members double and triple in roles in this retelling of the classic role-switching yarn. A 2002 cast album is in stores.
Ray Roderick directed in 2002 and helms again, before heading to Florida to direct I Love a Piano, the Irving Berling revue he co-created. The show is penned by Roderick (book), Neil Berg (music and lyrics), Bernie Garzia (book and additional lyrics).
The Prince and the Pauper is produced by Carolyn Rossi Copeland, Marian Lerman Jacobs and Leftfield Productions. Summer performances, designed to attract families, play 7 PM Tuesday and Thursday, 8 PM Friday and Saturday and 2 PM Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and 3 PM Sunday.
Tickets are $50-$55. The historic Lamb's is at 130 W. 44th Street. For reservations, call (212) 239-6200.
The musical is about lookalike boys who trade places between the worlds of royalty and rags, circa 1547. During the 2002 run of the show, the creators revisited the material and made judicious cuts and reshaped the work. By fall, the show ran about 2 hours, representing a cut of 12-14 minutes, Copeland said.
Gerard Canonico, the original pauper, Tom Canty, grew out of the role, but is heard on the cast album.
Performances are on the mainstage of the landmark theatre and former theatrical private club where Twain regularly wrote and rubbed elbows with fellow authors and theatrical legends, according to the producers.
"Set in medieval London, the classic tale musicalizes the story of two lookalike boys — a young protected Prince and a destitute Pauper who dreams of what he could accomplish if only given the chance. Their paths cross and the boys change places in a daring stroke of happenstance and alter the destiny of an entire nation," according to production notes.
The musical first came to the attention of producer Carolyn Rossi Copeland around 1997 when she was vice president of creative affairs for Madison Square Garden/Radio City Entertainment, which was exploring theatrical properties. As the company pulled away from staging spectaculars, it released the option on the show, but Copeland remembered it. She thought the property, scaled down to an intimate 15-actor staging, would be perfect for the 399-seat Lamb's, where she had produced works for 10 years.
"It feels like the perfect place," Copeland told Playbill On Line, adding that the set designer has used the famous interior architecture of the Lamb's Theatre (all pecan wood paneling) to be part of the scenic design. "It's supporting the show. The architecture of theatre is evident in the set."
The show began in the mind of songwriter Berg, who recalled watching the old Errol Flynn "Prince and the Pauper" picture on TV when he was a kid growing up in Rockland County.
Berg said he spent time trying to change the face of musical theatre, but decided he wanted to write a more traditional story "that I loved, and have known since I was a boy. I remembered it for years, and I wanted to musicalize it."
He began writing The Prince and the Pauper in 1996 when he was working as a musical director at a children's camp. He plunked out the basis of the first draft of the score on a "teeny, tiny piano" at the camp, in between sessions working with kids. Two formative productions (one in Westchester in 1996 and one in Queens in 1997) followed before it went through a major overhaul during the time MSG/Radio City was interested."We made hundreds of changes in that time," Berg said.
John Glaudini has been attached as musical director since 1997. Co-writer Bernie Garzia was invited into the project after Westchester, in late 1996.
Producer Copeland said the score has changed and improved so much over time that an early demo that was made is not even used to promote the show. She bills the work as a book musical with a contemporary pop musical theatre sound, and says the staging at the Lamb's is environmental.
"I loved the story of these two boys, I was really intrigued with creating a musical about the beauty of young characters who change the destiny of the world," Copeland told Playbill On-Line.
Director Roderick was associate director for Mike Ockrent on Madison Square Garden's A Christmas Carol, and for Susan Stroman on Broadway's The Music Man, and staged the national tour of The Music Man, based on Stro's work.
Composer-lyricist Neil Berg has written a number of musicals including The Life and Rhymes of Fiona Gander, Asylum In the Night ('95 Bistro Award/Best Musical), False Profits and A Witch's Tale. He comes from a rock 'n' roll background, and used to play and write for the rock band Stone Caravan. He left the band to write shows. Among his credits, he served as musical director and arranger for the all star Chess in Concert event for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS in the late 1990s.