Jekyll & Hyde and Scarlet Pimpernel composer Frank Wildhorn had hoped to release the concept album of his new musical The Civil War in May or June, but the album has been postponed until at least September 1998, according to Martha Ashton of Wildhorn Productions.
The show is still in negotiations to debut in fall 1998 at the Alley Theatre in Houston, with a Broadway opening tentatively targeted for the 1999-2000 season.
Ashton gave no reason for the CD delay, other than to say that recording the concept album is an "ongoing project." But she said many of the cuts have already been recorded, including those by Broadway stars Betty Buckley, Michel Bell and Linda Eder, plus Dr. John and a host of major country/western stars including Travis Tritt, Tricia Yearwood, Carl Anderson, Blues Trader, Kevin Sharp, Deanna Carter, Trace Adkins, Michael English, Tracy Lawrence and John Berry. The CD is scheduled for release on Atlantic Records.
Titled The Civil War: An American Musical, the piece has lyrics by Jack Murphy and will draw its material from original civil war documents, Walt Whitman poetry and other correspondence of the time.
[Ashton also confirmed a New York Post story that Wildhorn has begun work on his Havana musical as a vehicle for Linda Eder, star of J&H and soon (May 3) to be his bride. The Post story said Havana will open on Broadway in spring of 1999, but Ashton had no further details.] Gary Gunas (of PACE Theatricals) told Playbill On-Line in late 1997 that the "star-studded" concept CD of The Civil War is expected to be followed by a televised concert special. No date for the special has been announced.
Variety reported in October 1997 that Houston, Texas's Alley Theatre has set the date for its premiere of the piece: Sept. 18, 1998. The show, to be directed by librettist Gregory Boyd, is expected to tour a year before coming to Broadway.
However, Alley Theatre spokesperson Jennifer Garza told Playbill On Line (April 4) that dates haven't been confirmed yet, but The Civil War remain "under consideration" for this fall. "No deal has been reached yet," she said. "Nothing is signed." A decision is expected to be reached by mid May when Alley announces its 1998-99 season lineup.
Ashton said there will be two CDs of Civil War. One will be a full score double disk; the other will concentrate on "radio friendly mixes." Other stars announced previously for the CD (but unconfirmed by Garza) include Hootie & The Blowfish, Kenny Rogers, Patti LaBelle, Bebe Winans, The Sounds Of Blackness, LeAnne Rimes and Bryan White.
Wildhorn told Playbill On-Line (Nov. 1997) that the Civil War CD is turning into a major drawing card for pop singers. Wildhorn calls it, "the largest American theatre album ever made: 28-30 major acts. Such a sweep of wonderful artists, I'm in heaven!" said Wildhorn. "[Civil War] combines what I love the most: theatre and the best pop singers in the world today making a record. It brings the record-making and theatre worlds together. This is an enormous commitment from Atlantic Records to a theatre piece. Not just RCA Victor or Sony Classics -- this is Atlantic Records, home of Led Zep and Jewel."
Wildhorn said he expects bring The Civil War to New York, "either to a Broadway house or the Paramount" in fall 1999. "And we'll go from there. This thing will have a very different kind of life from a Broadway show. It's not an oratorio, nor a play with music, nor a concert -- but it has elements of all those things. It's a huge emotional tapestry, the people of the times and the loss that defined those times. It consists of letters and diary entries and speeches -- that's the thread of the piece. Even Jack Murphy's song lyrics are based on poetry and speeches. The piece goes from Secession to the dawn of Gettysburg. (There was too much stuff to go to the entire inaugural.) And if it all works, maybe a year from now, we'll do the next part."