Getting poor reviews wasn't the only bad news greeting the new musical Thou Shalt Not last week. On Thursday, Oct. 25, opening night, lead actor Craig Bierko ruptured one of his vocal cords when he was accidentally hit in the larynx during a fight scene. He's been out of the show since Oct. 26 on vocal rest. Production spokesperson Philip Rinaldi told Playbill On-Line (Oct. 30) it's hoped that Bierko will be back "within a week," but there's no set return date at this point. "He finished the show and went to the opening night party," Rinaldi said, "but the next day he was hemorrhaging and had to be brought to the hospital. It was just a freak thing that happened."
Understudy David New, a veteran of shows at Chicago's Goodman, Steppenwolf and Victory Gardens theatres, has been in the show since Friday and will continue until Bierko returns. The staging of the fight scene has not been altered.
The new Susan Stroman-Harry Connick, Jr., musical Thou Shalt Not opened Oct. 25 for a limited run through Jan. 6, 2002 at Broadway's Plymouth Theatre. After delaying its first preview a week following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the new Lincoln Center Theater musical Thou Shalt Not started performances Sept. 27 (the original start date was Sept. 20.)
This musical adaptation of Emile Zola's gritty tale of murderous adultery stars Kate Levering in the role of Therese Raquin (the name of the original novel), Craig Bierko her lover Laurent and Norbert Butz her husband Camille. Debra Monk and Leo Burmester are also in the cast. Levering and Bierko co-starred as distinctly sunnier characters in the Stroman-directed The Music Man, which had Levering as Zaneeta Shinn, and Bierko as Prof. Harold Hill. Levering then went on to become the budding starlet Peggy Sawyer in the Broadway revival of 42nd Street, winning a Tony nomination for her tireless tapping.
Butz was recently seen Off-Broadway as Amy Ryan's baby-stoning boyfriend in Edward Bond's Saved. More recently, he was in Jason Robert Brown's new musical, The Last Five Years at the North Light Theatre in Chicago (and soon due at LCT). He is also known for a stint as the emcee in Cabaret.
The book is written by Tommy Thompson. Stroman directs and choreographs.
Speaking at the 2000 Theatre Hall of Fame ceremony on Jan. 29, Monk said of the show, "Harry [Connick] is perfect for it. He has written a beautiful and wonderful score, and Tommy's book is lovely, so it's very exciting."
Monk added that, though the novel took place in the 1800's in Paris, the musical is set in the 1940's in New Orleans.
She later told the Houston Chronicle, in July 2001, "It's a dark, lusty, unique piece," Monk said. "It may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I know it will be extraordinary theater. Harry's score is amazing, full of 1940s blues and jazz. Besides writing the music and lyrics, he's telling us all a lot about New Orleans, which is his hometown, helping give the show the authentic New Orleans feel."
Connick, son a New Orleans jazz musician, made his name as a gifted pianist while still a teenager. He become a popular vocalist as well (and a bit of a Frank Sinatra-like heartthrob) when his soundtrack to the film "When Harry Met Sally" proved a surprise success in the late '80s. He has since recorded standards and original material as a soloist, part of a jazz trio and as leader of a big band. Connick has occasionally dabbled in acting, taking parts in the films "Memphis Belle," "Hope Floats" and "Copycat."
Thou Shalt Not had a workshop at Lincoln Center Theatre on Sept. 18. LCT helped foster Stroman's last original project, Contact, which went on to win the best musical Tony and is still playing at the Vivian Beaumont. Monk appeared in the workshop. Stroman and Monk worked together on Steel Pier.
First published serially under the title "Un Mariage d'Amour," Zola's harrowing tale of passion, hatred and the ultimate destruction that can come of lust was later published in 1867 as a novel. In "Therese Raquin," a sensual wife and her lover murder the woman's husband and remarry, only to be haunted by the victim's ghost.
Zola was a preeminent French novelist of the later 19th century who aimed, as part of the naturalist movement, to present real life by depicted the lives of poor, betrodden working class people. He also had a hand in the changing face of the theatre at the time, influencing Paris' famous Theatre Libre, where many naturalistic works had their premiere.
Zola wrote many plays himself (including his own adaptation of Terese Raquin), but found more success with his books. Today, he is perhaps best known for his role in the Dreyfus Affair, which divided France over the subject of the country's anti-semitism. Zola, who was rabidly pro Dreyfus, railed against the prejudiced military establishment with his famous article, "J-Accuse."
—By David Lefkowitz and Robert Simonson