Andrew Lloyd Webber and Hal Prince, along with the cast and creative team of their new musical Whistle Down the Wind, hosted the New York press at the first day of rehearsals in N.Y. Oct. 21.
Playbill On-Line was there.
Dressed in black and seated at a table with his collaborators at the 890 Broadway rehearsal studio, Prince said Whistle will be "different from our past collaborations. As I think it should be. This has songs, not sung-through. It has lyrics which are encapsulated in song form. It has a book I just love, that's very moving to me and very aritculate. I think it's beautiful, we want it to be beautiful; we also want it to be dangerous, and mysterious and moody, and at times a tone poem."
Whistle Down the Wind is scheduled to start performances at the National Theatre in Washington DC Dec. 6, and to begin previews at the Martin Beck Theatre on Broadway April 8, 1997.
Prince also said "It depends on how you define you define 'spectacular,' it is not a spectacle. It's a musical, with a strong story. That makes it very intriguining to us, especially the third time around." Whistle is Prince's third musical with Webber, the two previous being Evita and The Phantom of the Opera. Both Webber and Prince described how the story, originally set in northern England, was used only to suggest the story of a young girl in backwater Louisiana, who discovers a runaway convict whom she believes to be Jesus Christ.
Webber said, "It wouldn't have been interesting to me at all, to have left it as it way in England. . . It didn't seem to ring true in England anymore. It seemed precious and a little bit twee, really."
In conversations with lyricist Jim Steinman and librettist Patricia Knop, several American locations were considered, including Appalachia. But in 1994 the three traveled to Donaldsonville, LA where they enjoyed Cajun food and soaked up the local atmosphere.
"It was a fabulous location," Webber said. "Going to Louisiana convinced me that it was doable."
Webber told Playbill On-Line that he did no special research, other than to listen to a few albums of Cajun music, though he said they were of limited help to him in his composing. He said he and co-orchestrator David Cullen are writing for a 16-piece orchestra -- small by Broadway standards -- that will emphasize the sound of harmonica and accordion to suggest the late 1950s locale.
Steinman, known for writing the Meat Loaf albums "Bat Out of Hell" and its sequel, said he is amazed with Webber's score, which he said "comes full circle" on Webber's development, from rock to pop opera and now back again.
The score uses a mixture of different musical sounds, as befits America in 1959, in the earliest years of rock 'n' roll. Irene Molloy, who plays the central character of Swallow, said she has two numbers, "If Only," an expression of her unhappiness with her family life; and then "Tire Tracks and Broken Hearts," an R&B number.
Whistle was originally developed as a film, but after a preview at his English estate, and "at the end of the concert version, every single member of the audience said 'What you have here is a stage show.' I then got a telephone call from my friend, Mr. Prince here. Hal, then, asked to see the video of the concert. He said 'What you've got here is a stage show. And further, I'd like to do it.' The thing is, I don't say no to Hal Prince. And that's why I'm here."
Also present at the open rehearsal were book writer Patricia Knop, costumer Florence Klotz, set designer Andrew Jackness, choreographer Joey McKneely, and others.
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-- By Robert Viagas