Swing Alley, a new musical about German teens in Hamburg forming a swing band in 1938, will dance into the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, in January 2000, directed by Eric. D. Schaeffer.
The world premiere, Jan. 4-Feb. 13, 2000, replaces Michael John La Chiusa and John Strand's new Van Gogh-inspired musical, The Highest Yellow, a Signature commission now expected to appear there in 2000-2001.
Schaeffer, who will stage the new version of Stephen Sondheim's Putting It Together starring Carol Burnett on Broadway in October 1999, worked on two readings of Swing Alley, by lyricist-librettist Chad Beguelin and composer Matthew Sklar.
The show tells of a group of young kids forming a swing band in Hamburg, Germany in hostile times. "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," "That Harlem Sound," "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.
Swing Alley will be the second new work in the 10-year history of Signature Theatre, which, in January 1999, offered the world premiere of John Kander and Fred Ebb's Over & Over.
Also in the Signature Theatre's 10th season slate: Side Show, the 1997 Broadway flop about conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton (which nevertheless has a huge cult following); part two of Tony Kushner's AIDS era epic, Angels in America: Perestroika, with the same cast as Signature's part one, Millennium Approaches; Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd; and the play, Available Light, which author Heather McDonald will also direct.
Season subscriptions are available from $95-$135. Single tickets range from $20-$30. To subscribe or request a brochure, call (703) 820 9771.
-- By Kenneth Jones