The Dallas County resident professional company devoted to musical theatre — and gaining a national reputation — presents four new musicals by different writers, including 2003 Tony Award nominee Jeff Blumenkrantz (nommed for Best Original Score for Urban Cowboy), in one full-length experience Feb. 11-26.
The Living End is four one-act musicals compiled by Lyric Stage founding producer Steven Jones. According to the Lyric Stage announcement, in August 2001, Jones met writer Annie Kessler at a showcase of songs from new musicals at Lincoln Center. Kessler and her partners, Jeff Blumenkrantz and Libby Saines, had written a one-act musical, Woman With Pocketbook, which Jones loved. But it wasn't clear how to present a 25-minute musical. In what format? Under what umbrella?
"Fast forward three years," according to Lyric Stage notes. "As he is putting together Lyric Stage's 2004-2005 season, Jones remembers Woman With Pocketbook. He contacts Kessler who suggests some possible companion pieces."
The short musicals Precious Little Jewel, The Ransom of Red Chief and The Life and Times of Joe Jefferson Benjamin Blow are joined Woman With Pocketbook, and The Living End was born.
Annie Kessler and Libby Saines wrote the book and lyrics to Jeff Blumenkrantz's music for Woman With Pocketbook. In it, "Doris Platt arrives at the pearly gates, pocketbook in hand. She took it everywhere with her in life...why should this be any different? Unfortunately for Doris, worldly goods are a no-no in heaven. Something's gotta give. But will that something be Doris Platt?" Deborah Brown will play Doris, Jerry Russell is her husband, Dave, and Ada Lynn is her long suffering mother Helen. Composer Blumenkrantz — also known as a Broadway character actor in A Class Act and as Bud Frump in the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying — again teamed with lyricist Libby Saines for Precious Little Jewel, adapted from Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," about "young Louise in turn-of-the-century New Orleans as she learns of her husband's untimely death in a train crash. How will she go on without him? What's left for her, now that she can no longer be his 'precious little jewel?'" Mary Gilbreath will play Louise and T.A. Taylor is her husband, Albert.
Brad Alexander composed the music, Helen Chayefsky wrote the lyrics and they collaborated on the book for The Ransom of Red Chief, an "updated musical adaptation of the O. Henry story" in which "a small-time crook finds that there may indeed be something worse than owing money to the mob. It doesn't take long for the hapless criminal to realize that kidnapping a spoiled, recalcitrant 10-year-old may not be the best solution to his dilemma." Jerry Russell will play the crook with Jordan Graff as the kid.
Andy Monroe created the The Life and Times of Joe Jefferson Benjamin Blow. "In 12 minutes, we see Joe's entire life, from birth to death. Watch Joe try to make sense of it all as his life goes hurtling by in this zany, heartwarming musical." Brian Hathaway will play Joe.
Connie Marie Brown, Jonathan McCurry and Jennifer Pasion complete the cast.
Cheryl Denson directs and Gary Okeson musical directs. Costumes are by Billie Boston, lighting design is by Adam Lozuk and Wade Giampa designs the set.
The Living End previews Feb. 11 at 8 PM and opens Feb. 12 at 8 PM. Performances are Thursday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM with matinees on Feb. 13, 20 and 26 at 2:30 PM. Tickets are $22-$28 and $15 for students.
Performances play in the Irving Arts Center's Dupree Theater, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving, TX. For ticket information, call (972) 252-2787.