Masada, a new musical drama about the Jewish rebellion against the Romans atop the Middle Eastern mountain of Masada, will have two concert readings March 21-22 in the 14th Street Y Theater's First Look Series in New York City.
The infamous 73 A.D. rebellion --- against the imminent Roman takeover of a Jewish fortress --- ended in the mass suicide of nearly 1,000 men, women and children, all Jewish zealots.
Michael Aman, who co-wrote the book and lyrics with Oscar E. Moore, will direct the readings. Music is by Benjamin Rosenbluth. The script is based on "The Antagonists," a novelistic approach to the historical event, by Ernest K. Gann.
Lyricist-librettist Aman met composer Rosenbluth in the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop in 1991-92 and met co-writer Moore in a musical theatre workshop sponsored by ASCAP.
Aman, 34, told Playbill On-Line that he saw a TV miniseries called "Masada" when he was in high school, and it moved him. He noted that the series was based on the Gann book. When looking for a project to musicalize, he sought and won musical stage rights to the book. The main characters are the Roman leader Flavius Silva (in love with his Jewish slave) and Eleazar, the Jewish leader (who wishes to protect his wife and son).
The collaborators have been working on the project for five years, and Aman said the 28-song score "has a bit of a pop feel to it," but is not sung-through.
He said he's not concerned with competition from another Masada musical project (subtitled The Musical Saga) that had a concert version in Los Angeles in December 1998 starring Davis Gaines (The Phantom of the Opera).
Aman said he hasn't heard the other show's two-disc recording (with Gaines and Quincy Jones) and doesn't want to. That musical, by Shuki Levy (music) and Shell Danielson (book and lyrics), also includes a star-crossed love between Silva and a Jewish zealot.
The New York company for the Masada concert reading includes Rod Thomas, Tim Toal, Leonard McKenzie, Rachel Rosenbluth, P.J. Griffith, Michael Harris, Jovier Sanchez, Christian Smythe, Joe Simmons, Annamarie Smith, James Casson, Gregory Bossler, Matthew Coyle, Adam Garrido, Bill Hartery, Brad Surosky, Cami Carter, Joan Marie Ferry, Jackie Lerner, Jillian Louis and Andrea Scott.
Musical director is Tammy Holder.
The 3 PM March 21 reading is sold out, but $7 tickets are available for the 7:30 PM March 22 performance.
The 14th Street Y Theater is located 344 E. 14th Street, near First Avenue. For ticket information, call (212) 780-0800 ext. 278.
-- By Kenneth Jones