PS Classics, the record label releasing the Broadway revival cast album of Nine in stores June 17, records the Off-Broadway cast of Zanna, Don't! June 9 for a summer release.
The pop-flavored new musical is set in a high school in a universe where everyone is gay. PS Classics co-founder Tommy Krasker will produce the disc with Zanna, Don't! musical supervisor Edward G. Robinson, teaming with engineer Tom Lazarus (Nine).
The Drama Desk Award-nominated musical fairy tale by composer-lyricist-librettist Tim Acito and collaborator Alexander Dinelaris, opened at the John Houseman Theatre March 20 after previews from March 5 and following an Off-Off-Broadway test run in fall 2002.
Zanna, Don't! will be PS Classics' first disc with a contemporary bubble-gum pop flavor. Pleasing a wide demographic, the score boasts funk, rock, pop and techno-disco sounds, to say nothing of slap-happy musical theatre specialty numbers. David Geist is musical director and dance arranger. A band of four plays the score.
The cast includes Jai Rodriguez (as Zanna), Anika Larsen (as Roberta), Darius Nichols (as Buck), Amanda Ryan Paige (as Candy/Karla), Enrico Rodriguez (as Mike), Robb Sapp (as Tank), Shelley Thomas (as Kate) and Jared Zeus (as Steve). Most of the players double and triple in roles. No store date has been set, but the disc may be available as soon as July at the John Houseman Theatre and on the PS Classics website. PS Classics was founded to focus on the heritage of American musical theatre and the tradition of American popular song, and Zanna, Don't! is a new color in the label's palette (while still fulfilling the company's mission).
Past PS Classics releases include popular discs by vocalists Jessica Molaskey, Philip Chaffin and Christine Andreas, as well as "The Maury Yeston Songbook," a new studio recording of Vincent Youmans' little-known musical, Through the Years, and more.
Visit PS Classics online at www.psclassics.com.
In the world of Zanna, Don't!, gay folks are the norm and straight folks are marginalized — the latter seeking asylum in San Francisco.
In fall 2002, the musical comedy that created its own unique universe, complete with quirky specialty songs about the nature of love, became a talked-about sell-out in its brief Off-Off-Broadway tryout run. Now, after a little script tinkering, an open-ended commercial run at the Houseman on 42nd Street introduces a wider audience to the music, book and lyrics of newcomer Tim Acito.
Set in a high school in Heartsville, USA, the show is billed as "musical fairy tale," focusing on two teen-age same-sex couples, Mike and Steve, and Kate and Roberta. Steve is the star quarterback and Mike is captain of the chess team; Roberta has just been dumped but hooks up with Kate, star of the mechanical bull-riding team.
The already upside-down world gets further twisted when one partner from each couple comes to realize their dawning heterosexuality. A pal of the couples is Zanna, a fashionably hip matchmaking teen (played by Jai Rodriguez, of Rent veteran) with super powers and a secret crush of his own.
Think of the show as a bright hybrid of Bye Bye Birdie, Grease, with a touch more social satire and heart.
The commercial Off-Broadway run follows a hot-selling Off-Off-Broadway run in October 2002 where producers Jack M. Dalgleish, in association with Stephanie A. Joel, and librettist-composer-lyricist Acito (who also did vocal arrangements) got a fuller look at the show and were able to address rough spots prior to the 2003 leap. Amas Musical Theatre presented the tryout. Rewrites happened in late 2002 and early 2003, but there were no wholesale song cuts or additions.
Audiences for the current run have gone wild for the director-choreographer Devanand Janki's staging. Show stopping applause is not uncommon, particularly after numbers such as "Be a Man"/"Don't Ask, Don't Tell," "Fast" and the funky "Whatcha Got?" The show has additional book and lyrics by Alexander Dinelaris.
The work's varied pop sound and bright, middle-of-the road, matter-of-fact attitude about love make it a property to varied audiences.
"The gay audience is a core market," producer Dalgleish previously told Playbill On-Line, agreeing that audiences who come to the show are surprised to learn the work is not the raunchy, bitchy or fleshy sort of entertainment that some people expect from some gay-oriented stage shows.
He said his challenge as a producer is to let people know the show is a social satire with heart and sincerity, boasting a score that flirts with funk, rock, pop, classic musical theatre, country and more.
Trouble brews in the show's gay universe when high school pals Kate and Steve find they are attracted to each other after sharing a passionate moment in the school musical (about straights in the military). They are shunned as outsiders and even consider running off to San Francisco, which has a reputation as a heterosexual enclave.
While it does spoof gay cliches and gender attitudes, the show ultimately "lets you see individuals and not stereotypes," said Dalgleish.
Musical supervision is by Edward G. Robinson. Production designers are Wade Laboissonniere and Tobin Ost. Lighting design is by Jeff Nellis and sound design is by Robert Killenberger.
The John Houseman is at 450 W. 42nd Street. For a limited time, May 31-June 28, admission to an added 10 PM Saturday performance is $20 per seat. For information, call (212) 239-6200.