Before starring the world premiere of the musical, The Visit, at the Goodman Theatre this fall, Tony Award winning actress-dancer Chita Rivera will play "media superstar" Magdelena Monteverde in an American summer tour of Casper the Musical.
The show is a revised version of the family musical — based on the ghostly comic book and cartoon character — that played London's West End in 1999. The tuner has been "totally revised" by authors Stephen Cole and David H. Bell and composers Matthew Ward and Henry Marsh. This "world premiere" of the new version of Casper is produced by Pittsburgh CLO (Civic Light Opera) June 5-24, followed by a tour to Kansas City Starlight Musicals (July 15-22), Atlanta's Theater of the Stars (July 24-29) and Dallas Summer Musicals (July 31-August 5). Rivera leaves the show after Dallas to start rehearsals on the John Kander-Fred Ebb-Terrence McNally musical, The Visit, opening in the fall at the nonprofit Goodman.
Rivera is the two-time Tony Award-winning Broadway legend who appeared in West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, The Rink, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman and the tour of the revival of Chicago, among other shows. She has also been seen in Chita & All That Jazz, a musical celebration of her life in the theatre, a show that, like The Visit, has hopes for a run in New York.
Casper concerns the famed "friendly ghost" and how he "inspires a greedy group of treasure seekers to search no further for the greatest treasure of all…each other," according to an announcement.
* Casper, drawing on the boy-ghost character who helps rather than spooks, was previously seen in London in 1999 and early 2000. The famous ghost was created in 1945 and, over the years, has haunted TV cartoons, comic books and a 1995 live action feature film.
In the original show, by lyricist-librettist David H. Bell and composers Henry Marsh (co-founder of the band Sailor) and Phil Pickett (who penned Boy George's "Karma Chameleon"), Casper helped a team of ghost hunters wage a high-tech battle with the supernatural to save a gothic Manhattan mansion from being overrun by zombies. The show's original concept is credited to Patrick Nally. Bell directed and choreographed the London staging. He previously co-wrote and directed The Hot Mikado at the Queen's Theatre (London) in 1995. Casper played briefly at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London, opening in December 1999. The show — dubbed a "spooky spectacular" — spawned a cast album. Special effects and puppeteering were a major part of the London show and are expected to be used in Pittsburgh and the tour. The show's direction and choreography were praised in London. The show includes what some critics called "copyright-skirting" references to "Ghostbusters."
Songs included "Rattle Me Bones," "Guys in Orange," "12 12 Hours 'Till Tomorrow," "Act Strong," "Up To No Good," "Casper," "Bad Relations," "Force Orange" (Instrumental), "Friendship," "Have a Night Out," "More," "Zombie Chase Theme," "I Could Love a Man Named Stinkie," "Livin' in Harmony."
The new score includes the following songs: "There's No Such Thing as Ghosts," "Someone's Coming Over to Play," "Fifteen Minutes of Fame," "Goodbye Sweet Angel," "Friend," "Happy Hunting Ballet," "I Take Charge," "Pretend," "He's a Nerd," "In the Spirit," "Feet Don't Fail Me Now," "Half Way Home," "Howl at the Moon," "The Greatest Treasure of All."
For information about Pittsburgh CLO, call (412) 281 3973.
— By Kenneth Jones