Philadelphia's Prince Music Theatre, formerly the American Music Theatre Festival, continues its tradition of producing new American musicals with 1999-2000's Running Man, The Snow Queen, the world premiere of The Hidden Sky and the opera Dennis Cleveland, as well as playing host to performances by Bruce Adler, Patti LuPone and James Naughton.
The season started off Sept. 22 with a presentation of the Godfrey Reggio 1983 film, "Koyaanisqatsi." Then Bruce Adler celebrated great stage and screen entertainers in his Song & Dance Man.
Up next is the Pulitzer Prize-nominated jazz musical, Running Man Oct. 20-Nov. 7 (officially opening Oct. 23). The story of a young African American summoned by his family with song after a seven years absence, Running Man has a story and music by Diedre Murray with text by poet Cornelius Eady. Murray based the work on her brother, a heroin addict who died in 1991. "He fell and kept falling," she said in a statement.
Diane Paulus directs the work, which is part of a planned trilogy that began with You Don't Miss The Water.
Featured in the piece, which was initially commissioned, developed and produced by Music-Theatre Group, are James Beeks, Ronnell Bey, Tracey Nicole Chapman, Roberta Gumbel, Robert Jason Jackson and Johnny Jamison. Designing the show are Myung Hee Cho (set), Peter Jakubowski (lighting) and Christianne Myers (costumes). Director Paulson said in a statement that Running Man uses a non linear structure to approximate the way memories come back to us in snippets and vignettes. "We carry our loved ones with us through memories," she said. "Confronting these memories is a way of finding the truth about our families. It's like peeling away an onion until we get to the center of our lives."
As for the rest of the Prince season, here's the line-up:
€ For the holiday season, Prince Music Theatre will be home to The Snow Queen (Dec. 15-30), an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's fable of a young girl who sets out to rescue her best friend from the Snow Queen, a loveless woman whose heart is frozen. Tony nominee Patricia Birch (Parade) directs and choreographing this new musical with book and lyrics by Adrian Mitchell and music by Richard Peaslee. Starring as the title is Lynnie Godfrey (a Drama Desk nominee for Eubie on Broadway). Jason DeBord serves as musical director.
€ Broadway diva Patti LuPone will sing in concert Feb. 2-14, 2000. Scott Wittman conceived and directs this evening of Broadway and standard tunes from the Tony Award-winning actress who starred in Evita, Sunset Boulevard and Anything Goes.
€ The Hidden Sky, a world premiere musical based on a short story by science fiction writer Ursula K. LeGuin, follows an intelligent young woman in her quest for knowledge in a repressive society. Music and lyrics are by Peter Foley with a book by Kate Chisholm. Prince Music Theatre artistic director Ben Levit directs the piece, running Feb. 29-March 19, 2000.
€ Dennis Cleveland, playing April 14-30, 2000, the techno-rock multimedia opera, examines the modern mass-media culture on the set of the Dennis Cleveland talk show. The music and libretto is by Mikel Rouse.
€ Two-time Tony winner James Naughton (Chicago, City of Angels) performs his one-man show, Street of Dreams, May 10-21, 2000. Originally produced at New York City's Promenade Theatre by Mike Nichols, Naughton sings a variety of songs from pop to show tunes, from country to ballads, peppering the tunes with stories from his career. Naughton directs with musical direction by John Oddo.
€ June 10-25, 2000, will bring a revival of a musical to the Prince. A company spokesperson said (Oct. 20) it would be either: St. Louis Woman (by Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer) or Strike up the Band (by George & Ira Gershwin) or Lady in the Dark (by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin).
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-- By Christine Ehren