Reprise Season to Feature Once on This Island, I Love My Wife, Man of La Mancha and Chess

News   Reprise Season to Feature Once on This Island, I Love My Wife, Man of La Mancha and Chess Four vastly different musicals will be featured during the 2008-2009 Reprise Theatre Company season, which was announced by artistic director Jason Alexander April 22.
Reprise! artistic director Jason Alexander.
Reprise! artistic director Jason Alexander.

The season will kick off with Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's Once on This Island, playing UCLA's Freud Playhouse Sept. 2-14. Billy Porter will direct the production with choreography by Bradley Rapier, the founder of the Groovaloos. The cast will include Yvette Cason, Vanita Harbour, Patina Miller, Jesse Nager, Leslie Odom Jr., Nita Whitaker and 2008 Grammy nominee Ledisi.

I Love My Wife, which features music by the late Cy Coleman and book and lyrics by Michael Stewart, will follow, running Dec. 2-14 at the Brentwood Theatre on the V.A. campus. Larry Moss will direct a cast that includes artistic director Alexander as well as Vicki Lewis and Steven Weber.

The season's most well-known offering is Dale Wasserman, Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion's Man of La Mancha, which will be seen at the Freud Playhouse Feb. 17, 2009-March 1, 2009. More than 3,300 underserved youth will be able to attend this production thanks to a partnership grant from The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation.

The Reprise season will conclude with the rock musical Chess, which boasts a score by Abba's Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus and lyrics by Tony Award winner Tim Rice. This production of Chess, which features such tunes as "One Night in Bangkok" and "I Know Him So Well," will boast a new book penned by Richard Maltby, Jr. and will play the Freud Playhouse May 5-17, 2009.

Additional casting and creative teams will be announced at a later date. In a statement Jason Alexander said, "I was looking for a diversity of stories, musical styles and world views as I chose this season. From family entertainment to sophisticated theatre, there will be something for everyone this year."

Subscription tickets are now available by visiting www.reprise.org or by calling the UCLA Central Ticket Office at (310) 825-2101.

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The original 1991 Broadway production of Once on This Island received nine Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Musical. The show tells the story of the orphaned Ti Moune and features such tunes as "Waiting for Life" and "Mama Will Provide." Graciela Daniele choreographed and directed the Broadway mounting, which featured LaChanze as Ti Moune.

I Love My Wife opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in April 1977, playing 857 performances before closing May 20, 1979. Directed by Gene Saks with musical staging by Onna White, the original cast featured Lenny Baker, Ken Bichel, James Brennan, Joanna Gleason (in her Broadway debut), Ilene Graff, Michael Mark, John Miller, James Naughton and Joseph Saulter. Actor Baker and director Saks won Tony Awards for their work; the musical was also nominated for a Best Musical Tony.

Man of La Mancha premiered on Broadway in October 1965 at the ANTA Washington Square Theatre. The musical closed following 2,328 performances and lengthy stays at the Martin Beck, Eden and Mark Hellinger Theatres. The original cast included Joan Diener as Aldonza and Richard Kiley as Don Quixote. The musical won Tonys for Best Musical, Best Composer and Lyricist (Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion), Best Actor in a Musical (Richard Kiley), Scenic Design (Howard Bay) and Best Direction of a Musical (Albert Marre). The most recent Broadway revival — in 2002 at the Martin Beck — starred Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell.

The Benny Anderson-Tim Rice-Björn Ulvaeus musical Chess debuted on the London stage with a cast led by Elaine Paige, Tommy Körberg and Murray Head, while the short-lived Broadway company featured Judy Kuhn, Philip Casnoff and the late David Carroll. The score includes such tunes as "Nobody's Side," "One Night in Bangkok," "Anthem," "I Know Him So Well," "Pity the Child" and "You and I." The original Broadway cast recording was released on RCA Victor.

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