In a unique situation, Arden Theatre Company presented the first staging of the Michael Ogborn-Terrence J. Nolen show, and shared some production costs with City Theatre Company of Pittsburgh. While the Arden troupe played on, the separate Pittsburgh cast rehearsed in Philly and dealt with changes made based on the failures and successes of the first show.
"We learned a lot in Philadelphia," composer-lyricist and co-librettist Ogborn told Playbill On-Line. "Basically, we learned that we needed to strengthen the point of view so the play, instead of happening in real time, now will happen as a recent flashback."
Based on the reviews and audience response, Ogborn said he and director and co-librettist Terrence J. Nolen "re-structured the score, changed the score, added two songs and cut one." The score is packed with specialty songs that show the attitudes of the ladies while suggesting the flavor of all kinds of cabaret music — from French to English musical hall to Weimar.
The show's point of view is now from the owner of the eatery, who talks of the night the Baroness made her last trip to the café. In Pittsburgh, the Baroness is played by Lenora Nemetz, a Pittsburgh theatre staple who is known around the country as both a leading lady and a famous understudy to leading ladies.
There is also more contact with the audience now, Ogborn said. Entrances are made through the audience and the crowds represent fellow denizens in the cafe. Café Puttanesca's trio of hookers are Megan Hilty (as The Duchess), Lenora Nemetz (as The Baroness) and Jilline Ringle (as The Madame, a.k.a. The Marquesa). Daniel Krell appears as the bartender and Stephanie Riso is his fiery wife. Thomas Wesley Douglas is musical director and onstage pianist.
The design team includes set by Bob Phillips, lighting by James Leitner, costumes by K.J. Gilmer, and sound by Nick Rye and Elizabeth Atkinson. The physical production was shipped from Philadelphia. The show's choreographer is Deirdre Finnegan.
Café Puttanesca had its world premiere at Philadelphia's Arden Theatre, Sept. 11-Nov. 2. Nolen is artistic director there. Only Ringle performs in both the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh productions.
Ogborn's Baby Case, about media and public hoopla over the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, was directed by Nolen at the Arden in 2002-03. The show won four Barrymore Awards, including Outstanding Musical.
Nemetz appeared on Broadway in Chicago,Working, Up In One (with Peter Allen), The Rink and The Pajama Game. Her tours include Cabaret, Bye Bye Birdie, Sweet Charity and Some Like It Hot (with Tony Curtis). She last appeared at City Theatre in 1998's Picasso at the Lapin Agile.
Opening night following previews is Nov. 26. Performances continue to Jan. 4, 2004.
City Theatre is at 1300 Bingham and 13th Street, South Side, Pittsburgh. Tickets are $28-$38. For information, call (412) 431-CITY or visit www.citytheatre.org.