Back in late 1990s, a show called Tin Pan Alley Rag was on the semi-fast track to reach Broadway, boasting as it did two powerhouse lead roles, a naturally musical scenario, and a number of well-received regional stagings. New York never happened, however; but the tuner continues to show signs of life. The latest mounting is at OH's Cleveland Playhouse in December, with Lynne Taylor-Corbett (Swing) directing and choreographing.
Mark Saltzman's play with music began previews Nov. 27, officially opened Nov. 30 and ends its scheduled run Dec. 30, with some tickets still available for all remaining performances (though some nights are getting scarce, according to a box office spokesperson (reached Dec. 27).
According to theatre spokesperson Julie Fogel, critical reception has been mixed, and the show's box office took awhile to gain momentum but has been strong in recent weeks, with "a lot of repeat business." The last two performances are nearly sold out.
The piece's last major staging came in late 1999 with an extended run at Philadelphia's Wilma Theatre. Taylor-Corbett's background with the Play House helped get the production going, and her input has been helpful in revisions. "There are no new songs going in," Saltzman told Playbill On Line (Aug. 21), "but she had some interesting stuff about restructuring and the use of dance in the piece. Plus, with Lynne directing, we're hoping to have a path to New York, and that the production will be on a Broadway quality scale people will be noticing."
Tin Pan Alley Rag features the songs of Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin and also explores the relationship between two of America's master songwriters at the height of their game. Set in 1915, when the bustling, raucous music publishing business centered in certain parts of New York City and came to be referred to as Tin Pan Alley, the story includes such historic moments as when Joplin, the King of Ragtime, visits the office of young, upstart songwriter Berlin. The musical portrays their encounters as sometimes antagonistic, often humorous and ultimately touching. Songs from the show include "The Maple Leaf Rag," "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "The Entertainer," "I Love a Piano" and others.
Tin Pan was also staged at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1997, followed by runs at CT's Goodspeed Musicals (still called the Opera House then) and at FL's Coconut Grove Playhouse. For its L.A. run, Tin Pan received an L.A. Ovation Award nomination for Best Musical. It is Mr. Saltzman's first full-length work for the stage.
Playwright Saltzman wrote the CBS television production "Mrs. Santa Claus," starring Angela Lansbury with songs by Jerry Herman. In film, he wrote "The Adventures of Milo and Otis" as well as screenplays for Disney and Tri-Star. In New York theatre, he co-wrote the musical revue A...My Name is Alice and as a musical composer, scored several plays at the Soho Rep. Writing songs and scripts for "Sesame Street," he earned seven Emmy Awards. He's currently developing a new musical titled Romeo, Romeo, which incorporates Neapolitan songs by the likes of Rossini and Leoncavallo.
The creative team for Tin Pan in Cleveland includes arranger/musical director Louis Goldberg. Casting will be done in late August. The Cleveland Play House opens its season in late September with Frank Langella's scaled-down version of Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, Cyrano.
Come February at the Play House will be the Next Stage Festival of New Plays, a series started by artistic director Peter Hackett. Previous writers in the fest have included Murphy Guyer and Michele Lowe, who developed the Broadway-bound Smell of the Kill there.
— By David Lefkowitz