Prince, Stroman, Tunick, Fitzhugh, Nelson Waltz to Strauss in Musical Reading of Paradise

News   Prince, Stroman, Tunick, Fitzhugh, Nelson Waltz to Strauss in Musical Reading of Paradise Paradise Found, a new musical by librettist Richard Nelson and lyricist Ellen Fitzhugh — with music by Tony Award-winning orchestrator Jonathan Tunick and late 19th-century waltz composer Johann Strauss II — has been explored in rehearsals in New York City in recent days leading to a private industry presentation April 25.
Darius de Haas
Darius de Haas

The reading has been overseen by co-directors Harold Prince and Susan Stroman. It picks up where the team left off in January, when a reading was canceled due to Prince (The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music) taking ill.

Darius de Haas (Marie Christine, Rent, Carousel) plays The Eunuch at the center of Paradise Found, which was inspired by Joseph Roth's Vienna-set novel, "The Tale of the 1002nd Night."

Center Theatre Group of Los Angeles is producing the reading with an eye toward a future production.

Music director Charles Prince, the respected musician son of Tony-winning director Prince, is the project's musical director. Composer Tunick is widely known for orchestrating many Broadway musicals, including the works of Stephen Sondheim. His current Broadway orchestrating credit is A Catered Affair.

Strauss (1825-1899) is the Austrian composer known for his sensuous waltzes, including "The Blue Danube." Tony-winning director and choreographer Stroman (The Producers, Contact, Young Frankenstein) last collaborated with Prince on the Broadway revival of Show Boat.

The cast includes Tony winner Shuler Hensley (Young Frankenstein, Tarzan, Oklahoma!), Tony winner John Cullum (of Prince's On the 20th Century), long-time Phantom of the Opera star George Lee Andrews, Show Boat veteran and Mary Poppins mother Rebecca Luker, Phantom Tony winner Judy Kaye, Kate Baldwin (White Christmas, Wonderful Town), LoveMusik veteran Graham Rowat, Daniel Marcus (Urinetown), Ann Arvia (Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins), Lisa Datz (The Full Monty, The Boys From Syracuse), Laura Dekkers (The Woman in White), Eric Michael Gillett (The Frogs, Sweet Smell of Success), Chris Hoch (Die Mommie Die!, Beauty and the Beast), Jim Poulos (Rent, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer) and Rachel Ulanet (LoveMusik).

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Nelson is the respected American playwright of Some Americans Abroad who won a Tony Award for his libretto to James Joyce's The Dead. His Conversations in Tusculum was produced by The Public Theater earlier this year.

Fitzhugh penned lyrics to the Prince-directed musical, Grind, and the musical Paper Moon.

Publishers Weekly characterizes the Roth novel this way: "A master fabulist and linguistic architect, Roth (1884-1939) examines the cultural crucible of fin de siecle Vienna through the eyes of his protagonist, the Persian monarch Shah-in-Shah. Seen this way, Roth's Vienna is, as the novelist Hermann Kesten put it, 'an exotic old-Austria, a kind of vanished, fairy-tale Wild East.' Things do get wild when the Shah, whose harem back at home is 365 wives strong, decides to sample 'the amorous arts of the Occident.' His unwitting encounter with a Viennese prostitute sets in motion the novel's Byzantine plot contortions and introduces a cast of eclectic characters. Roth's antic playfulness is, however, tempered by a serious consideration of the customs of the times. The Shah's visit upsets Viennese society at every level as it destabilizes social hierarchies and calls character into question. Roth decorates his well-wrought plot with lush description as he waxes philosophical on destiny and responsibility. Originally published in 1939 by the Dutch firm of De Gemeenschap, this historical novel proves its staying power, despite the tests of time and translation."