MusicalFare's artistic director, Randall Kramer, wrote book, music and lyrics for the new piece, thought to be the first traditional book musical about Wright, whose experiences have been previously dramatized in plays with-music and an opera. Performances began March 4, and continue to April 4. Doug Weyand directs a cast of six.
Martin is largely unheralded, according to MusicalFare production notes. He gave financial support to Frank Lloyd Wright for many years and "played a pivotal role in saving the world-renowned architect's career."
Renewing Wright focuses on his 32-year friendship between the men. Martin was chief executive of the Larkin Co., a huge manufacturing and retail giant based in Buffalo at the turn of the 20th century.
According to production notes, "One of the highest paid executives in the nation at the time, Martin had Wright design and build three homes for him and his family in the Buffalo area. A century ago, Martin championed Wright as the designer for the Larkin Co.'s administration building, Wright’s first major public commission and the building that first brought the architect acclaim in international architectural circles. But while those commissions helped build Wright's career, it was Martin's decades of financial and other assistance that really helped save Wright, a notorious spendthrift, from financial ruin."
MusicalFare Theatre is the intimate professional theatre in residence on the campus of Daemen College in Amherst, NY, in suburban Buffalo. Kramer set out to write a musical focused on Wright's sometimes stormy relationship with Martin and his wife, Isabelle, especially during the design and construction in the mid-1920s of the late Martin's still-standing summer home, Graycliff, built on a 70-foot cliff overlooking Lake Erie.
Kramer interviewed several volunteers of the Graycliff Conservancy, which since 1999 has been restoring the home "after 50 years of neglect and remodeling by other owners." A presentation of the show will take place at Graycliff in Derby, NY, in June.
In his research, Kramer discovered a friendship between Wright and Martin that far surpassed the traditional architect-patron relationship – and even some of Wright's other notable client relationships, including with Fallingwater owner Edgar Kaufmann and Herbert F. Johnson of the Johnson Wax Co.
Kramer said in notes, "Without Martin's help over the years, especially his efforts to save Taliesin, Wright's home in Wisconsin, Wright might never have been in a position to salvage his career in the 1930s. He might not have had the opportunity to design and build such masterpieces as Fallingwater, the Johnson Wax Building, and the Guggenheim Museum."
The Equity-affiliated staging features John Fredo as Darwin D. Martin, Tom Zindle as Frank Lloyd Wright, and Lisa Ann Ludwig as Isabelle Martin, as well as Marc-Jon Filippone, Syndi Starr and Dawn Woollacott. Music direction is by Michael G. Hake. Weyand also handes the musical staging.
Set design is by Chris Schenk, lighting and sound by Chris Cavanagh and costume and wig design is by Loraine O'Donnell-Gray.
Kramer is the founder and atistic director of MusicalFare Theatre, and is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. He has led the company to unprecedented growth, and has directed many of their critically acclaimed productions, including Jolson & Company, Avenue X, A New Brain, The 1940s Radio Hour, Wings, Sweeney Todd, Jesus Christ Superstar, A Chorus Line, Falsettos and the world premieres of Dancing in the Dark and In Love With Angel. In 2003, Stories of Life, written by Kramer, won praise from critics, patrons, and a statewide organization representing not-for-profit senior care facilities for its telling of the real-life anecdotes of dozens of elderly Western New Yorkers.
He is co-author of the musicals Waxworks and It's a Dog's Life as well as the sole author for children's adaptations of Cinderella, Aesop's Fables and Red Riding Hood. The Arts Council for Buffalo & Erie County recently named him "Arts Administrator of the Year."
Currently in its 13th season, MusicalFare Theatre, one of the only musical theatre companies in Upstate New York, is an award-winning not-for-profit, professional musical theatre company that has produced more than 80 shows, including world premieres.
For more information, visit www.musicalfare.com.