Although the young stars of the Baz Luhrmann's new Broadway staging of the opera, La Bohème, aren't exactly traditional marquee names along the lines of Patti LuPone and Brian Stokes Mitchell, there is still interest in who of the rotating three performers playing lovers Mimi and Rodolfo will be Tony eligible.
The taxing nature of the grand Puccini score — placed by director Luhrmann in Paris of the 1950s — prompted the triple casting of international performers in the romantic leads, and the singers will never appear more than three performances weekly.
Tony Award eligibility rules dictate that the actors appearing on the designated opening night are the ones who are Tony eligible. Chris Boneau, spokesman for La Bohème told Playbill On-Line Sept. 19 said the Broadway opening night casting has not been determined and the immediate focus of producers and creators is the San Francisco tryout, which begins Oct. 1 at the Curran Theatre.
The cast schedule for the San Francisco tryout (through Nov. 10) and the Broadway run (starting Nov. 26 at the Broadway Theatre) has not yet been determined, but it is expected that the singers who rehearsed together in pairs will be going on together once the schedule is announced (unless injury, sickness or other circumstances prevent those pairs from appearing). That is, audiences can expect Lisa Hopkins and Jesus Garcia, Wei Huang and Alfred Boe and Ekaterina Solovyeva and David Miller to be the couples on their designated nights (they appear in those couplings in the print ad campaign, too).
"This is a story still in process," Boneau said of the cast's performance schedule. "They are still deciding who will play which nights." The same goes for the role of Marcello and Musetta, which are each double cast and will rotate, with no performer playing more than four shows per week.
"We are talking about Tony eligibility but no decision has been made," Boneau said, adding that this animal is unique. "We don't know. It's an opera for Broadway and it's not behaving like a traditional Broadway show. We are trying to figure out how best to represent the show (before dealing with issues like awards)."
Asked if there was a possibility of all six performers rotating on opening night within the same performance (thus potentially making the entire cast eligible or — depending on the quirk of the nominating committee — making all three men eligible as Best Actor and all three women as Best Actress), Boneau would only say various scenarios have been discussed. He stressed that the play's the thing and the creators and producers want to make sure the production is best served.
(Predicting how the principals may or may not be eligible for Tony Awards is difficult, but the Tony nominating committee has been flexible in the past: When two actresses played conjoined twins in Side Show in 1998, they were, together, considered one actress and were nommed as such for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.)
There is no designated opening night at San Francisco's Curran Theatre but the press will start coming Oct. 15, Boneau said, with reviews likely to appear by Oct. 17. The performance schedule of the singers for the West Coast run is expected to be known by Sept. 26.
The expectation in the theatre community is that La Bohème will be viewed by the Tony Award nominators as a revival, particularly given the Tony Awards Administration Committee's recent ruling on the eligibility of shows deemed "classics": "A play or musical that is determined by the Tony Awards Administration Committee (in its sole discretion) to be a 'classic' or in the historical or popular repertoire shall not be eligible for an Award in the Best Play or Best Musical Category but may be eligible in that appropriate Best Revival category."
In the event that La Bohème gets shoved into the Best Special Theatrical Event category, director Baz Luhrmann and designer Catherine Martin (as well as performers and other designers) would lose their eligibility, which would likely give the Tony committee a black eye — since this La Bohème's first staging in Australia in 1990, the production has always been considered a masterstroke of Luhrmann and Martin's febrile imaginations.
La Bohème opens at the Broadway Theatre on Dec. 8 after previews from Nov. 26.
Joining the previously announced six international actors are Daniel Webb as Colline, Daniel Okulitch as Schaunard, William Youmans as Alcindoro and Adam Grupper as Benoit. Like Mimi and Rodolfo, the principal roles of Marcello and Musetta will also be played by multiple performers. Marcello will be portrayed by Eugene Brancoveanu and Ben Davis; Jessica Comeau and Chloe Wright will share the role of Musetta. The ensemble of La Bohème comprises Enrique Abdala, Christine Arand, Janinah Burnett, Gilles Chiasson, Charlotte Cohn, Michael Cone, Vanessa Conlin, Sean Cooper, Patricia Corbett, Evangelia Costantakos, Lawrence Craig, Dan Entriken, Graham Fandrei, Bobby Faust, Katie Geissinger, Jennifer Goode, Paul Goodwin-Groen, Joy Hermalyn, Robb Hillman, Adam Hunter, Tim Jerome, Katherine Keyes, Laurice Lanier, Morgan Moody Marcus Nance, Daniel Neer, Debra Patchell Patricia Phillips, Jamet Pittman, Martin Sola, Radu Spinghel, David Steinberg, and Mark Womack. The production will also feature an ensemble cast of 16 children.
The Bohème cast will number 50, and the performers are members of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) rather than Actors' Equity, which represents most Broadway actors. The actors will sing in Italian, with English supertitles.
Musical director Constantine Kitsopoulos will conduct a 26 piece orchestra.
La Bohème's playing schedule will be 8 PM Tuesday-Saturday; 2 PM Wednesday and Saturday; 3 PM Sunday. Tickets ($20-$95) are available at (212) 239-6200 or (800) 432-7250.
The doomed love affair between seamstress Mimi and the artist Rodolfo is set against the world of bohemian Paris in 1957. Luhrmann's La Boheme premiered in 1990, and became the biggest hit in the history of the Sydney Opera House and a sold-out sensation. It played return engagements at the Sydney Opera House in 1993, when it was recorded for video, and in 1996.
As previously announced, the design staff will include Academy Award winners Catherine Martin (scenic design and co-costume design) and Angus Strathie (co-costume design), Nigel Levings (lighting design) and Acme Sound Partners (sound design).
Onetime actor Luhrmann is internationally known for directing the films "Strictly Ballroom" (which he began as a play), "Romeo + Juliet" and the Academy Award nominated "Moulin Rouge." He has worked in film, opera, theatre, music and events management. With wife Catherine Martin, he is the founder and director of Bazmark. In 1988, he created the critically acclaimed opera, Lake Lost, with composer Felix Meagher, where he first collaborated with designer Catherine Martin.
As provided by the producers, here are the bios of the performers playing the Mimis and Rodolfos:
Alfred Boe (Rodolfo) is originally from Lancashire, England. He was accepted to The Royal College of Music where he was given top honors for his music. He was one of the first singers to be given a place on the Vilar Young Artists Programme at the Royal Opera House. Performances include Roderigo on Verdi's Otello, Ramendado in Bizet's Carmen, Nenco in Haydn's L'infrdelta Delusa and the title role in Britten's Albert Herring at Glyndbourne.
Jesus Garcia (Rodolfo) is originally from League City, TX. He was the winner of the 2001 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He is currently completing his second year as a Resident Artist with the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. Roles include Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Ferrando in Cosi fan Tutte, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Elvino in La Sonnambula, Rodolfo in La Boheme, Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Alfredo in La Traviata and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly.
Lisa Hopkins (Mimi) is originally from Salt Lake City, UT. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theater Studies and Acting from Yale University in 2001. After receiving her BA she went on to the Manhattan School of Music and is currently getting her Master's in Voice. She is the founder of the Yale College Opera Company. Performances include La Voix Humaine, Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare, Polly Peachum in The Threepenny Opera, Casilda in The Gondoliers, Mrs. Nordstrom in Sondheim's A Little Night Music.
Wei Huang (Mimi) is originally from Shanghai, China. She graduated from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1999. After she received her Bachelors Degree she went on to Brooklyn College where she received her Master's of Music Degree in Vocal Performance in 2002. Roles include Pamina in Mozart's Die Zauberflote, Hanna in Lehar's The Merry Widow, Mimi in La Boheme, Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Juilet in Gounod's Romeo et Juliet, The Princess in Ravel's L'enfant et les sortileges and Miss Silverpeal in Mozart's The Impresario.
David Miller (Rodolfo) is originally from Littleton, CO. He received his Masters Degree in Opera Theatre along with his Bachelors of Music Degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He recently returned from Italy where he performed Manon by Massenet. Other roles include Lysander in Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream, Jenik in Bartered Bride, Albert in Albert Herring, Rinuccio in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, and Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus. He has also performed at the White House for the former President Clinton. Upcoming projects include the one-act opera, Vita, where David will perform a role written specifically for him at La Scala in Milan.
Ekaterina Solovyeva (Mimi) is originally from St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1994 she graduated from the St. Petersburg State Conservatory. That same year she entered the Academy of Young Singers of the Mariinsky Theatre. Her repertoire includes Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro, Thibault in Don Carlo, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Giulietta in Les Contes d'Hoffman, Musetta in La Boheme and Prilepa in Queen of Spades.