Saint-Ex, a Musical Drowned by Hurricane Irene, Surfaces Again Sept. 2 in Vermont

News   Saint-Ex, a Musical Drowned by Hurricane Irene, Surfaces Again Sept. 2 in Vermont The Weston Playhouse in Vermont launched the world premiere of the musical Saint-Ex, about the aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, on Aug. 25, but by Aug. 28 Hurricane Irene had other plans. The theatre was flooded with eight feet of water and the show, it seemed, was washed away for good.

Alexander Gemignani, Stanley Bahorek and Krysta Rodriguez in Saint-Ex.
Alexander Gemignani, Stanley Bahorek and Krysta Rodriguez in Saint-Ex. Photo by Tim Fort

Never underestimate theatre people. Despite Weston Playhouse producing partner Steve Stettler's "guesstimate" of $250,000 in losses and damages (including a grand piano that was flipped over by the power of the water that flooded the orchestra pit and the venue's lower level), the company has recovered enough to present a modified version of Saint-Ex with its stranded Equity company intact. It resurfaces Sept. 2 in a Vermont where roads have been washed out in recent days.

The band will now be placed on stage, the microphones were donated, the basement was pumped, the building's electric was restored and inspected, the wigs and costumes (which were stored in the lower level at the time when the nearby river became a torrent) were cleaned of mud and filthy water. Performances will continue to Sept. 10, the show's original closing date.

The auditorium itself was not flooded, so sets and lights are largely untouched by the disaster, Stettler told Playbill.com on Sept. 1. The Saint-Ex that takes off again Sept. 2 will largely reflect the intention of the director, Kent Nicholson, although the action has been moved downstage to accommodate the band's placement upstage.

This is the final show of Westport's 2011 season. Much work is ahead to renovate the space for 2012, Stettler said, adding that the community support has been overwhelming, including donations of meals to the company after the flood and monetary donations from strangers.

The theatre company continues seeking donations of money and equipment (a washer and dryer, anyone?) for the future. A special Emergency Fund has been set up to assist the company with cleanup and restoration efforts. Contributions can be sent to the theatre's offices at 703 Main Street, Weston, VT 05161, or made online through the company's web site (westonplayhouse.org). Donations should be marked "Emergency."

For re-ticketing and all other ticket-related questions, call the Westob box office at (802) 824-5288.

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For Saint-Ex, Nicholson directed a cast that includes Broadway veterans Alexander Gemignani (Road Show, Les Miz), Krysta Rodriguez (The Addams Family) and Cass Morgan (Memphis, Mary Poppins), among others.

The musical by lyricist-librettist Sean Barry and composer Jenny Giering (The Mistress Cycle, Crossing Brooklyn) has support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's Fund for New Musicals, the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Community Foundation.

Alexander Gemignani, Carl Kimbrough and Price Waldman in Saint-Ex.
photo by Tim Fort

The show was the winner of the Weston Playhouse's national New Musical Award in 2010. According to Weston notes, "Saint-Ex explores Saint-Exupéry's relationship with his younger brother, his tempestuous marriage to a fiery Latin widow, and the conflict between his career as an aviator and his success as an author. In the 1920s, Saint-Exupéry was a pioneering member of the Aéropostale, the air-mail company that opened delivery from France to Dakar in Western Africa. In open-cockpit planes and without radar or weather reports, these pilots flew over the Pyrenees and the Sahara desert, risking their lives for the mail and for one another. Over protests from his admirers, Saint-Exupéry flew reconnaissance for the U.S. during World War II and was ultimately lost in an ill-fated flight."

Saint-Ex was developed prior to Weston at TheatreWorks Palo Alto and the Sundance Festival.

Gemignani plays Saint-Ex, Rodriguez is Consuelo, Morgan is Maman. The company also includes Charlie Brady (original cast of South Pacific revival) as Guillaumet, plus Stanley Bahorek (Off-Broadway's See Rock City…), Haley Bond, Miguel Jarquin-Moreland, Amy Justman, Carl Kimbrough, Omar Lopez-Cepero (American Idiot) and Price Waldman (The Lion King).

The creative team includes music director Matt Castle, choreographer Jennifer Turey, scenic designer Tim Mackabee, lighting designer Stuart Duke, costume designer Kirche Leigh Zeile, sound designer Ed Chapman, production stage manager Jess Johnston, dialect coach Patricia Norcia and orchestrator Mary-Mitchell Campbell (Drama Desk-winning orchestrator of Company, music supervisor and orchestrator of Williamstown Theatre Festival's Ten Cents a Dance).

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Here's the history of Weston Playhouse, according to its website: "Vermont's oldest professional theatre is a living testament to a community’s belief in the arts. In 1935, while the Great Depression was raging, Weston-born architect Raymond Austin was putting the finishing touches on a playhouse that one Boston Globe critic would dub 'the most beautiful theatre in New England.' A former church renovated for the town's dramatic club, the Weston Playhouse quickly attracted the attention of director Harlan Grant, who produced the theatre's first summer stock season in 1937, featuring a young actor named Lloyd Bridges.

"The company flourished, giving a start to such talented artists as Emmy award-winning actor Christopher Lloyd and Tony-winning designer John Lee Beatty. Musicals were added to the canon, then a late-night entertainment called The Cellar (later, the Act IV Cabaret) and a restaurant. The extended community's devotion proved strong through three war-torn summers (1943-45), a 1962 fire that destroyed the original Greek Revival building, and floods which challenged its replacement in 1973 and again in 1976.

"Upon the death of Walter Boughton, the theatre's second producer in 50 years, producing directors Malcolm Ewen, Tim Fort and Steve Stettler rededicated the Playhouse to its community, reorganizing it as a non-profit Equity company. The Weston Playhouse Theatre Company is now an award-winning regional theatre nationally known for its multi-stage summer festival and its year-round Outreach and New Works Programs.

"The company recently acquired the 5-acre Walker farmstead in Weston and is in the midst of a major capital campaign to preserve it as a year-round center for play development. In honor of its 75th season, the theatre company has worked with its landlords, the Weston Community Association, to create the Playhouse's first orchestra pit, expanded dressing rooms and actor bathrooms, an updated lobby, greater handicapped accessibility, an air-conditioned restaurant, and a state-of-the-art fire safety system.

"Less than 20 U.S. theatres have been around for 75 years. We celebrate this hallmark with our focus squarely on the future, devoted to producing a deep and broad season of the very best in live theatre. We can do so only because of the continuing dedication of our loyal artists, staff, board, patrons, donors and volunteers. Happy Anniversary to all!"

For more information, visit westonplayhouse.org.

View photos of the flood damage and cleanup:


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