Together Again, Galati and Flaherty Conjure Gertrude Stein in New Musical, A Long Gay Book

News   Together Again, Galati and Flaherty Conjure Gertrude Stein in New Musical, A Long Gay Book Director Frank Galati and composer Stephen Flaherty are collaborating for the first time since Seussical, on a chamber musical called A Long Gay Book, inspired by the writings of Gertrude Stein
Stephen Flaherty
Stephen Flaherty (Photo by Aubrey Reuben)

It is to have its premiere at Northwestern University in May.

The work, performed by students in collaboration with the Tony Award-winning creators, is based on various texts by Gertrude Stein adapted for the stage and directed by Chicago-based Galati (who directed Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens and Terrence McNally's Ragtime). Music is by Stephen Flaherty (A Man of No Importance, Once on This Island), with choreography by Marc Robin and musical direction by Brad Haak.

The piece is presented May 9-18 at the Ethel M. Barber Theatre in Evanston, IL, by Northwestern's Theatre & Interpretation Center (TIC), a component of the School of Communication with the specific goal of producing and administering performing arts productions of the School of Communication, Department of Theatre and Department of Performance Studies.

A member of Chicago's Steppenwolf ensemble since 1987, and an artistic associate of The Goodman Theatre, Frank Galati won two 1990 Tony Awards for his adaptation and direction of The Grapes of Wrath. He is professor of Performance Studies at Northwestern. Stephen Flaherty won the 1998 Tony Award for his score for Ragtime. This is Galati's "only new original performance piece of this year's Chicagoland season," according to TIC.

Tickets for A Long Gay Book range $11-$24. Performances are 7:30 PM May 9, 10, 15, 16, 17 and 2 PM May 11 & 18. For ticket information, call (847) 491-7282 or visit www.tic.northwestern.edu. *

Fans of Seussical, Ahrens and Flaherty's whimsical show based on the works of Dr. Seuss, recall that Galati was replaced by producers Barry and Fran Weissler when the show was deemed to be in trouble in its Boston tryout in summer 2000. Rob Marshall stepped in to direct what ended up on Broadway, though Galati's name remained in the Playbill credit. The show would subsequently fail financially on Broadway but have a renewed life on national tour under the direction of Christopher Ashley (in a further revision of the original). Some still wonder what the pure Galati version of the show might have been had he stayed.

In June 2001, Galati spoke to Playbill On-Line about Seussical.

"It was a show with a split personality," he said. "It was borne along in a sort of conflicted state from the very beginning—although the workshop was charming and didn't really reveal the turbulence that lay ahead both in terms of shaping the artistic work and also the commercial mission of the show. When I say 'split personality,' even the creators were curious from the beginning about 'What does this show really want to be? What is its audience? To whom do we want to speak?' I thought that its virtues were in the simplicity of the story and the playfulness of the language and the sweetness of the theatrical convention that the show embraced, which was all about narration and storytelling and poetry. But I think that the producers were thinking about something else. They were thinking about the Almighty Buck and reaching the widest possible audience regardless of age or taste. They wanted something that would be sexy and colorful and would really rock. And many of those qualities are not inherent in the work of Theodor Geisel, who was a really droll guy and went to Dartmouth and actually believed that less was more. So we parted company in Boston."

Does Galati consider the show that opened on Broadway his work at all?

"You know, it's hard to say," he said in spring 2001. "When you're involved with something from its creation, it's almost impossible to trace your work. Having worked with Lynn [Ahrens] and Stephen [Flaherty] so intimately on Ragtime and going through a very similar process on Seussical, I feel I'm largely present in a certain way. On the other hand, a great deal was done to the show after I left and it was changed in some very significant ways, some visible and some invisible."

Galati would later stage The Visit, a new musical by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Terrence McNally, at The Goodman Theatre and will helm the show when it plays The Public Theater in Manhattan in 2004.

*

Northwestern University's TIC is home "to over 500 students and faculty members who spend 18-hour days in class, labs, rehearsal and performance," according to the TIC website. "The professional staff of the Center currently consists of 15 fifteen administrators and technicians. A goal of the Center has been to produce a large quantity of work in order to provide experience and exposure for the student and faculty artists.

"Each season, the Center produces eight professionally supervised presentations that include both classic and contemporary plays, dance performances and musical productions. In addition, the Theatre and Interpretation Center produces the annual Waa-Mu Show, an original student-written and performed musical.

"The season is presented in three venues: the 439-seat Ethel M. Barber Theatre, the 369-seat Josephine Louis Theatre and the 1000-seat Cahn Auditorium.

"The center offers subscriptions for the entire 8-play season as well as for Summerfest, a two-to-three-play series that is performed each summer."

Recent productions include Six Myths, directed by Mary Zimmerman, which went on to become Metamorphoses on Broadway.