The Wiz's Stephanie Mills stars with "F-Troop's" Larry Storch in a concert performance of the musical Purlie, July 30 to Aug. 2 at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.
In the beginning there was "Encores!," the New York City Center's concert series of neglected musicals, presented in stripped-down stagings that emphasized the scores. The success of that program led to its Los Angeles equivalent, "Reprise!" Now Washington DC is getting its own version of the idea with the Kennedy Center's "Words & Music" series. Three overlooked musicals were chosen for this "Celebration of American Musical Theatre" (running July 16-Aug. 16), with Purlie next in line.
Purlie (July 30-Aug. 2) stars Mills and Storch, alongside Reginald VelJohnson (TV's "Family Matters") and Dorian Harewood (TV's "I'll Fly Away"). George Faison will direct and choreograph.
The series began with Bells Are Ringing (July 16-19) starring Faith Prince and Joyce Van Patten. Aug. 13-16, audiences will ask Where's Charley?, with Emily Loesser and real-life husband Don Stephenson starring, alongside Dick Van Patten (TV's "Eight Is Enough") and Judith Blazer (Titanic). (Loesser's real-life father was Frank Loesser, who wrote the show's score.) Charles Repole directs, with Dan Siretta choreographing a special concert version to be adapted by Ken Ludwig (Moon Over Buffalo, Crazy For You).
[The Kennedy Center "Words & Music" series is not to be confused with a Nov. 1997 series at NY's York Theatre, under the same title, that offered readings of plays on which famous musicals were based.] Like its bi-coastal counterparts, the "Words & Music" program can import name players because the runs are so short, and because the on-book performers don't have to memorize dialogue or blocking. For tickets ($40-$50) and information on "Words & Music" at the Kennedy Center call (202) 467-4600 or (outside DC) (800) 444-1324.
-- By David Lefkowitz