As musical book-writer Mark Saltzman prepares his Tin Pan Alley Rag for its latest production (at the Cleveland Play House, Nov. 27 Dec. 30), he's also working on another new tuner, Romeo Romeo, which is embarking on its next stage of readings this fall.
With a book and lyrics by Saltzman and a score made up of Neapolitan songs — with new or translated lyrics — by such opera composers as Rossini and Leoncavallo, Romeo has already had preliminary readings in New York and L.A. One recent reading, done as part of the National Alliance of Musical Theaters gathering, featured cast-members Michael Paternostro, Tara O'Brien and Sal Mistretta.
Arnold Mittelman, artistic director of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, is the lead producer on the Romeo project. "He's trying to interest some other theatres in the show," Saltzman told Playbill On-Line Aug. 21, "since cost-wise everything has to be a co-production these days." Mittelman told PBOL Oct. 10 he was in the midst of putting together a multi-city world premiere with the Paper Mill Playhouse, La Mirada and (possibly) the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia all co-producing with Coconut Grove.
Paper Mill Playhouse company spokesperson Charlie Siedenberg likened the show to "Romeo and Juliet meets `The Sopranos.' Siedenberg confirmed that Romeo, Romeo is one of the projects Paper Mill might consider for a mainstage mounting in its 2002-03 season. (Artistic director Robert Johanson is the current director of Romeo Romeo.) "We have at least one new work a season at Paper Mill. Though our N.E.A. Money dried up, we did a survey and found that people did want to see new work."
Other shows that have taken their cue from classical music include Carmen Jones and Kismet, with Aida and Rent borrowing storylines and Amadeus, The Lisbon Traviata and Master Class dipping into that world for subject matter. — By David Lefkowitz