The undergraduate drama department of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts is in rehearsals for Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Pacific Overtures, the 1976 musical about of Japan's evolution from insular island to industrial giant.
Rarely done in the undergrad setting (indeed, rarely revived), Pacific Overtures will be performed Oct. 14-23 by a multicultural student company and will use women in roles that were, in Harold Prince's original staging, played by men in Kabuki drag.
Book writer John Weidman (Assassins, Big) is said to be working on new book material for the show's finale, "Next," which fast-forwards 150 years of history (1853 to the present). The NYU production uses elements from the original script and the Off-Broadway revival. The original production credits listed Hugh Wheeler as writing "additional material."
Marcia Milgrom Dodge, the regional theatre director whose credits include musical staging of Off-Broadway's Closer Than Ever, stages the NYU Pacific Overtures revival at the Abe Burrows Theatre, 721 Broadway, on the NYU campus.
The company includes Elizabeth Bauer, Kim Blair, Ryan K. Brack, Jennifer M. Chang, Jessica Lindsay Cohen, Jonathan Drury, Elizabeth Earley, Jesse Factor, Kathryn Foster, Ben Fox, Amy Frankel, Jared, Gertner, P.J. Griffith, William Hartery, Christianne Knauer, Douglas Kreeger, Michael Langoria, Maiesha McQueen, Shale Marks, Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper, Jessica B. Morris, Katherine Prudente, Lauren Rubin, Daniel Spector, Brandon Tesar, and Jennifer Zetlan. Musical director is Brian Cimmet. A puppeteer who has worked with Jim Henson Productions is consulting on puppet work. Jamie Guan (M. Butterfly) is the movement consultant.
Pacific Overtures opened on Broadway Jan. 11, 1976, the same season as the flashier Chicago and the sensation, A Chorus Line. The rarefied, Asiatic-influenced musical ran 193 performances and was nominated for 10 Tony Awards and earned designers Florence Klotz (costumes) and Boris Aronson (scenic) trophies.
Musical numbers include "Pretty Lady," "A Bowler Hat," "Someone in a Tree," "Welcome to Kanagawa," "Poems," "Chrysanthemum Tea," "Four Black Dragons" and more.
Box office phone lines open Oct. 4, call (212) 998-1860.
-- By Kenneth Jones