Anthony Rapp (You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Rent) and Jeremy Kushnier (Footloose) will star as arch enemies Joe and Noah in the Dan Lipton-David Rossmer musical comedy, Joe!, being given its industry premiere in a reading March 29 at the Lamb's Theatre Upstairs.
Joe!, an original musical about a guy who becomes trapped in a musical, follows Joe, an unemployed serious actor who only wants to do plays -- "real" theatre, as he thinks of it. Unfortunately, everyone else is only doing musicals. After a failed musical audition, Joe goes to sleep...only to wake up in a world where his alarm clock sings at him, his parents sing at him, even the city of New York sings at him.
Songs in the comic look at musical theatre include "Leading Man," "Break a Leg!," "Playing it Sane," "Don't Let What Happened to Us Happen to You," and "Perfect Design."
Featured as Joe's trio of friends are Danny Burstein (Titanic, Company) as Dave, a bitter children's theatre author, William Youmans (Titanic, Big River) as Jeff, a past-his-prime experimental theatre artist, and John Bolton (Titanic, Damn Yankees) as Jay. Emily Loesser (Titanic, By Jeeves) plays Laura, the ingenue and Joe's love interest. Melissa Hart (The Scarlet Pimpernel, Candide) and John Jellison (Titanic, On the Town) are Joe's parents, and Drew McVety (Titanic, Corpus Christi) appears as a mysterious bum.
Also included in the premiere are Catherine Brunell (Les Miserables) as Joe's ex, Courtney, Randy Clements (Titanic) as the insane proprietor of Jimmy's Pub, Robin Irwin (Titanic) as Joe's agent and Chuck Caruso, Will Erat, Stacie Lewis, Carolyn Miller and Steven Rosen as the ensemble. Kevin Stites is the musical director. Stage directions will be read by Rossmer's parents.
Joe! is the first full length musical for 24 year olds Rossmer and Lipton. Although they've lived near each other for most of their lives, they didn't become friends until summer camp during high school. That's when they began to work together, continuing their partnership through Northwestern University and into Broadway performing stints.
Both write the music, lyrics and book of the show, often in tandem at the keyboard. "The way we write now is we do everything together. The two of us write the book, the two of us write the lyrics, the two of us write the book...Nothing necessarily comes first, second or third. We just plow along and whatever seems like it should be next to work on, that's what we would do. It's really exciting because we both have a hand in everything," Rossmer said.
Rossmer, also an actor, appeared on Broadway as Robert Hichens in Titanic and Off-Broadway in That's Life. His writing credits include When the Dog Comes A-Knockin' at Your Door recently produced by the Outlaw Theatre Company.
Lipton, a pianist, has played in the orchestra pits for both Titanic and A New Brain and is currently on tour with Floyd Collins. Lipton's writing credits include the musical Puck and Mary, produced by Northwestern's Theater and Interpretation Center in 1997. He scored the short film "Winner's Cup," which received a Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmakers Award (subsequently screened in movie theatres during previews) and has written songs for Griffin's Tale Children's Repertory Company, music for Face to Face Productions' Into the Words and incidental music for a production of Strindberg's A Dream Play.
Both write for and perform with Floating City, a conglomeration of song- writing Broadway actors that includes co-founders McVety and Sean McCourt, Brian d'Arcy James, Matthew Bennett and Clarke Thorell.
-- By Christine Ehren