Previews are expected to begin in December toward a January 2005 opening at the West 37th Street Theatre that uses automobile seats — some with seat belts still attached — in its auditorium.
Under the Bridge has been heard in developmental readings that featured Ed Dixon as the gruff but lovable French hobo, Armand, who becomes caretaker to homeless siblings in December 1953 Paris. The book by Natalie Savage Carlson won the Newbery Honor and has been a favorite children's story since it first appeared in the 1950s (HarperCollins published it in 1958).
Lambchop Productions will shepherd the production, which has book and lyrics by actress-singer-writer Kathie Lee Gifford and music by pop and theatre composer David Pomeranz ("Tryin' to Get the Feeling Again," "The Old Songs").
Director Eric Schaeffer is artistic director of Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, and oversaw The Sondheim Celebration at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He also staged Putting It Together on Broadway.
Paul Raiman is musical director. The first performance is Dec. 1 and opening will be Jan. 6, 2005. Les Misérables veteran Ed Dixon, the barrel chested character actor praised for his presence and his potent baritone, confirmed to Playbill On-Line that he'll play Armand. He recently completed a run in the Kurt Weill entertainment Here Lies Jenny at the Zipper. He's also a respected writer whose own musical, Fanny Hill, is aiming for a 2005 run Off Broadway.
Kathie Lee Gifford is the widely-known actress and talk show host ("Live With Regis & Kathie Lee") who appeared in Broadway's Putting It Together when Carol Burnett was off. With Pomeranz, she has also written the developing musical, Hurricane Aimee, about the controversial evangelist Aimee Semple MacPherson. Schaeffer has directed developmental readings of the piece.
The Off-Broadway run of Under the Bridge is seen as a test of the material toward a wider plan that may include Broadway.
Designers will be Jim Kronzer (scenic), Chris Lee (lighting) and Anne Kennedy (costume). Orchestrations are by Brian Besterman.
Tickets, $55, will go on sale Nov. 8 via Telecharge.com at (212) 239-6200 and in-person at the Zipper Theatre box office, 336 W. 37th Street.