Swing Alley, a new musical about German teens in Hamburg forming a swing band in 1938, is expected to dance to Broadway in the 2000-2001 season.
The original musical by lyricist-librettist Chad Beguelin and composer Matthew Sklar was to have been directed by Eric D. Schaeffer at Schaeffer's Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, in January 2000, but his busy 1999-2000 schedule with Broadway's Putting It Together and London's musical, The Witches of Eastwick, prevents his involvement before summer 2000.
Swing Alley's New York producers, Allan and Beth Williams, announced through a spokesperson that Schaeffer is still attached (also confirmed by a Signature spokesman) and that the world premiere would be at a regional theatre -- perhaps the Signature -- outside of New York in fall 2000, prior to Broadway.
No choreographer has been announced.
Signature's managing director told Playbill On-Line that he wasn't surprised to hear there was a Broadway plan: What he had heard and read of the show was a polished product that seemed "ready." The show tells of a group of teenagers forming a swing band in Hamburg, Germany in hostile times, as the Nazis are taking bigger strides in world domination. "Escaping to America has always been their goal but power rules over artistic freedom in a torn society," according to production notes.
Musical numbers by the twentysomething New York City songwriters, who have collaborated on Wicked City (American Stage Company) and Maurice, include "Nothing to Do But Dance," "Swing Baby," "That Harlem Sound," "Hello New York," "Till He Returns," "You Can't Buy My Love" and "Inside the Music."
"Although they were locked into these terrible lives, the Swing Youth could go to a club and pretend they were free Americans, quoting all the lines from the movies they'd seen," said Beguelin in production notes. "It was a make-believe world which got them through the horrible things going on around them."
Sklar said, "We wanted to create a sound that makes you feel what the characters are feeling. When they're in the club, they feel free, feel like their spirits are lifted and they can ignore everything else."
Composer Sklar conducted the Broadway production of Les Miserables when he was 21 and also conducted Titanic and Miss Saigon. Beguelin is a graduate of New York University's Dramatic Writing Program.
Schaeffer, who will stage the new version of Stephen Sondheim's Putting It Together starring Carol Burnett (beginning performances Oct. 30 at the Barrymore Theatre) , worked on two readings of Swing Alley.
-- By Kenneth Jones