Philadelphia's Prince Music Theatre, formerly the American Music Theatre Festival, continues its tradition of producing new American musicals with its just-announced 2000-01 season. Among the offerings are an evening of one-act musicals -- one of which will be directed by the theatre’s namesake, Harold Prince, and a new operatic piece with a libretto by Golden Child’s David Henry Hwang.
Producing director Marjorie Samoff has also picked a cabaret turn by Andrea Marcovicci and a revival of Candide for the season, running Sept. 12-June 24, 2001.
Here’s the Prince-ly line-up:
Sept. 12-17: Andrea Marcovicci offers a concert performance titled, “Kurt Weill in America.” Featured are the composers works with such lyricists as Ogden Nash, Langston Hughes and Ira Gershwin.
Nov. 1-19: The world premiere of Mice, Lavender & The Lawnchair Man, three one-act musicals. Legendary director Prince (Evita, Sweeney Todd, Fiddler on the Roof) will stage The Flight of the Lawnchair Man, a comical look at man’s desire to fly. Robert Lindsey Nassif and Peter Ullian penned the piece, about an average fellow who hopes to soar by attaching hot air balloons to his lawnchair. Also on the bill are the ironic The Mice, by Laurence O’Keefe, Nell Benjamin and Julia Jordan, directed by Brad Rouse; and John Bucchino & James Waedekin’s Lavender Girl, with Scott Schwartz directing. Dec. 13-30: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, a puppet and special effects-filled adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ novel by Tom Key and Carolyn Cook, scored by Michael Fauss. Rosemary Newcott directs this co production with Atlanta’s Theatrical Outfit.
A world premiere will mark the new year, Feb. 28-March 18, 2001, followed by The Silver River, April 4-14, 2001. Chinese dancers and instrumentations augment this mythological look at how night and day came to be separated. The book is by David Henry Hwang, author of the Tony winning M. Butterfly. Ong Keng Sen will direct the piece, which has music by modern classical composer Bright Sheng.
May 15-27, 2001: A revival of Candide, directed by Ben Levit. Though never exactly a success on Broadway, the musical retains major historical interest, mainly because of its best songs and pedigree: Lillian Hellman and Hugh Wheeler adapting Voltaire, with Leonard Bernstein scoring and John LaTouche, Richard Wilbur and Stephen Sondheim contributing lyrics.
Closing the Prince season, June 12-24, 2001, will be Our Sinatra, a revue of tunes made famous by Ol’ Blue Eyes. The cabaret show, directed by Kurt Stamm, is still running at Off-Broadway’s Blue Angel Theatre. Supervised by Richard Maltby Jr. (Fosse, Ain't Misbehavin'), the performer-conceived production is a tour of some 50 songs (full tunes and medley versions) associated with Frank Sinatra, from "Witchcraft" to "Time After Time" to "These Foolish Things," and more.
Our Sinatra started as an August 1999 cabaret show (seen at the famed Algonquin Oak Room), conceived and performed by pianist Eric Comstock, vocalist Christopher Gines and vocalist Hilary Kole, who will all reprise their performances in Philadelphia. Stamm and Maltby helped shape the current version, making some cuts and adding a couple of different tunes.
Stamm told Playbill On-Line (Dec. 8, 1999) that the production celebrates some of the lesser-played Sinatra works, rather than ubiquitous hits such as "New York, New York."
"We're steering clear of the stuff that is so cliched," said Stamm, "but there are hints of the hits in some places. It's more about digging in and finding the hidden gems, finding the orphan songs that weren't known until he recorded them." Consequently, listen for "These Foolish Things," "To Love and Be Loved," "Without a Song" and "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?"
Stamm, who is an artistic associate of Maltby's, first heard the trio when popular song historian Jonathan Schwartz recommended the performers for a Maltby-directed tribute to Jimmy Van Heusen in the Lincoln Center "American Songbook" series in October.
Since starting in 1984 as the American Music Theatre Festival, the Prince Music Theatre has produced more than 80 musicals, 49 of them world premieres. Among the mountings were Band in Berlin and last season’s Running Man.
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-- By Christine Ehren