Star Is Sidelined, So Playwright Steps In; Durang Rescues His Own Musical

News   Star Is Sidelined, So Playwright Steps In; Durang Rescues His Own Musical Michael Rupert, star of the new Christopher Durang-Peter Melnick musical, Adrift in Macao, for Philadelphia Theatre Company, was ailing Nov. 6 and couldn't play his role at the matinee.

Enter Christopher Durang, the show's librettist, lyricist — and last-minute understudy.

Not wanting the performance to go adrift, Durang stepped in to play Rick Shaw, the hero of the spoof of "Casablanca"-like yarns. He had about four hours' notice, and the audience gave him a standing ovation, a spokesperson told Playbill.com.

Although Rupert (Broadway's Sweet Charity, Falsettos and The Happy Time) is expected to be back on stage Nov. 8, Durang is ready to fill in again if necessary.

The playwright is known for writing such absurdist, acidic comedies as The Actor's Nightmare, Beyond Therapy, Baby With the Bathwater, Betty's Summer Vacation and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, but he's no stanger to appearing on stage. His resume includes roles in his own Marriage of Bette and Boo and Laughing Wild, among others, and the Off-Broadway musical Putting It Togther.

* The world premiere of Adrift in Macao opened Oct. 26 in a staging by Philadelphia Theatre Company. Directed by Sheryl Kaller, with book and lyrics by Durang and music by Peter Melnick, the staging features Rachel deBenedet (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), Jennie Eisenhower (Arden's Baby Case), Michael M. Malone (Val on "All My Children"), David McDonald (Les Miserables), Orville Mendoza (Roundabout's Pacific Overtures), Michele Ragusa (Ragtime) and Michael Rupert (Ragtime, The Happy Time, Falsettos).

Previews began Oct. 19. Performances continue to Nov. 20.

"Mixing together farce, camp and tongue-in-cheek wit, Adrift in Macao is a funny and irreverent musical parody of film noir," according to PTC notes. "Complete with intrigue, silliness and a playfully melodic score, this new musical spins the tale of five quirky characters stranded in a Casablanca-like locale in the Far East."

Christopher Durang is known for his caustic, absurdist-flavored comedies, including Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, Betty's Summer Vacation, Baby With the Bathwater, The Actor's Nightmare, Beyond Therapy and more. His new play, Miss Witherspoon was seen this fall at McCarter Theater and begins Nov. 11 Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. PTC produced Durang's The Vietnamization of New Jersey in 1982.

Composer Peter Melnick has written for film and musical theatre. His works for the stage include Ester Play The Palace, a musical based on the Purim story with books and lyrics by Sherman Yellen; Chinese Cabaret, a musical theatre piece mounted as part of the 1993 Los Angeles Festival; and Sextet, a dance piece choreographed by Twyla Tharp that premiered at New York's City Center in 1993. His film credits include award-winning independent features "Call Waiting" and "West of Here"; "L.A. Story," the Steve Martin comedy; "The Only Thrill" starring Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard; Horton Foote's "Convicts" with Robert Duvall and James Earl Jones; "Only You" starring Helen Hunt and Kelly Preston; and "Artic Blue," the Peter Masterson film starring Dylan Walsh and Rutger Hauer.

Adrift in Macao's creative team includes Christopher Gattelli (choreographer); Fred Lassen (music director); Michael Starobin (orchestrator); Thomas Lynch (set designer); Willa Kim (costume designer); Paul Gallo (lighting designer); and Peter Fitzgerald (sound designer).

For ticket information, call Philadelphia Theatre Company at (215) 985-0420 or (866) 985-0420, or visit www.phillytheatreco.com.

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Philadelphia Theatre Company is Philadelphia's "only non-profit professional theatre dedicated exclusively to producing regional and world premieres of works by contemporary American playwrights." Its producing artistic director is Sara Garonzik.