The new show has book and lyrics by Harman and music by Herrmann, and draws on "The Haunted Hotel," a novella by Wilkie Collins. An earlier version of the show has been seen in readings under the title The Haunted Hotel. It has since been reinvented as a more theatrical five-actor show, set in a Scotland Yard deposition room.
"The suspect is La Contessa Nerona, a Victorian adventuress," according to production notes. "Is she a cold-blooded murderer...or a victim herself? A team at Scotland Yard presents the evidence in this stunning and stylish thriller."
James Warwick (Paper Mill's An Ideal Husband) directs the Fringe staging, executive produced by Georgia Didion, at the Wings Theatre, 154 Christopher Street, in Greenwich Village.
The cast includes Mark Capri (Private Lives on Broadway), Maree Johnson (the respected Australian actress and cabaret singer), Ian Knauer (Broadway's By Jeeves), Ken O'Brien (a vet of Connecticut Repertory Theatre) and Adam Simmons (Broadway's Jesus Christ Superstar).
Composer Herrmann is the show's musical director and arranger. The Fringe outing marks the first time this draft of the show has gone before the public. "The thing that's most attractive about being in the Fringe is that it's a different audience," said Didion. "It also has a high concentration of producers and people from different kinds of theatres all over the world. We think that's really exciting. It's a one stop shopping kind of experience."
Didion said Suspect "is not avant garde as some of the wonderful titles in the Fringe," but admits the five actor conceit is conceptual in itself, though the show also has qualities of a traditional book musical, with story and emotion-filled songs.
Like other creatives behind the Equity showcase-code Fringe show, the team behind Suspect is hoping a producer plucks up their show and takes it the next level.
"With the success of Urinetown [which started at the Fringe] I think a lot of people see there are real options there — that things can succeed," Didion said.
Suspect designers are Wade Laboissonniere (costumes) and Kenneth Schutz (lighting). Choreography is by Jonathan S. Cerullo. Laboissonniere recently created set and costumes for Zanna, Don't!
According to production notes, "Both Suspect and Collins' novella center on the infamous Contessa Nerona, a beautiful femme fatale reputed to be guilty of various crimes, all supposedly committed in league with her brother, the mysterious Baron Rivar. Set in London and Venice, the plot concerns La Contessa's marriage to a rich English lord, who dies under mysterious circumstances shortly after their wedding. Assisted by three other detectives and a female clerical assistant, the case of La Contessa is reconstructed for the audience by an Inspector at Scotland Yard. As the case is presented, however, the personal agendas of the men and woman offering the evidence also come into play. The woman claims to have been raped. She secures a promise from the Inspector to go after the culprit, a senior detective, once the central case has been presented. Can the Inspector be trusted? Meanwhile, two younger detectives contend with the realization that they have fallen in love. By the final curtain, all the various story strands intertwine, ending in a climactic coup de theatre in which every character is suspect."
In addition to the Outer Critics Circle Award-winning Romance/Romance, which is still a favorite in stock, amateur and regional theatre here and abroad, Harman co-created the musical, Olympus On My Mind and Herrmann composed the musical Onward Victoria and is a respected musical director and arranger. Both were nommed for 1988 Tony Awards for Best Score for Romance/Romance, which Harman also directed. Harman was Tony nommed for the show's libretto. The show also got a Best Musical Tony nomination.
Tickets are $15. Show times are Aug. 9 at 4 PM, Aug. 17 at 7:45 PM, Aug. 19 at 4:30 PM, Aug. 21 at 5:15 PM and Aug. 23 at 8:45 PM. For Fringe information, call (212) 279 4488 or visit www.FringeNYC.org.
For more information about Suspect, billed as ...a killer musical, visit www.suspectthemusical.com.