Despite a 1992 staging by Off-Broadway's WPA Theatre and a cast album, the science-fiction-flavored show, made up of two one-act musicals, with a book by Alan Brennert and additional book by David Spencer, isn't as widely known as Menken's Little Shop of Horrors or Beauty and the Beast (to say nothing of his film scores for Disney's "The Little Mermaid," "Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Pocahontas").
Weird Romance is licensed by Samuel French and is revived in theatres around the country, but has yet to resurface in a high-profile way. Spencer hopes news about the Norwich run will spark further interest.
Spencer heard from friends that Spirit of Broadway had licensed the musical and he called up the company's artistic director, Brett A. Bernadini, and offered him new material, some of which had been heard in a UK staging of the show. The director grabbed at it.
Two songs that were intended for, but not used, in 1992 were re-addressed for the UK run, and make their U.S. premiere in Norwich. Some book changes accompany the songs. One of those songs, "It's a Night," was a 1992 orphan lyric looking for music until Menken set it for the later London run.
"About three years ago, the director of a small London production of Weird Romance contacted me through my agent to discuss the show, and it just seemed the perfect excuse for fixing those things that had always bugged me," Spencer said. "I called Alan and he agreed to provide music for the updates. So these are 'living' changes, not merely trunk substitutions. And the Spirit of Broadway production is the first one in the country to use them." The acts are inspired by the stories "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" by James Tiptree, Jr., and "Her Pilgrim Soul" by Brennert.
Spencer, who is also a composer, has been developing his own musical, The Fabulist, a musical fable about storyteller Aesop, in recent seasons. It won the 2002 Richard Rodgers Development Award and has been tested in public readings recently. For Weird Romance, he is co-author of Act One, and Brennert is sole author of Act Two.
The Columbia cast album of Weird Romance, now out of print, features Ellen Greene, Jonathan Hadary, Danny Burstein, William Youmans, Jessica Molaskey, Valarie Pettiford, Sal Viviano, Marguerite MacIntyre and Eric Riley. Doug Besterman orchestrated.
Weird Romance performances began Nov. 5 at the intimate 83-seat black box thrust of The Spirit of Broadway Theater. The troupe has a guest artist relationship with Actors' Equity Association.
The Girl Who Was Plugged In is about "a homeless bag-lady whose soul is transplanted into the body of a gorgeous female android by a company that manufactures celebrities," according to production notes. Her Pilgrim Soul, "involves a scientist who researches holographic imaging. One day a mysterious 'living' holograph, apparently a woman long dead, appears and changes his life forever."
The Spirit of Broadway Theater's mission is "community revitalization through artistic innovation." Despite the troupe's name, it tends to stage new, edgier or less commercial fare. Brett A. Bernadini is artistic director and CEO.
For more information, visit www.spiritofbroadway.org.