Tony Award-nominated lyricist Craig Carnelia will be the chief balladeer in Goodspeed Musicals' production of the musical he also penned music and lyrics for, Actor, Lawyer, Indian Chief, May 15-June 9 at the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT.
The country-music-kissed show, with libretto and direction by David H. Bell, has been in development for several years and a portion of the piece was presented at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Festival in Manhattan in fall 2001. Inspired by a real incident, Actor, Lawyer, Indian Chief tells the story of a former TV actor who continues to make public appearances as the TV cowboy he played as a young man — and the Hollywood studio that wants him to cease and desist. (A similar real-life tension involved a former "Lone Ranger" actor, Clayton Moore, and the studio that was producing a new film version of the classic character.)
Carnelia is currently represented on Broadway as lyricist for Sweet Smell of Success, which has music by Marvin Hamlisch. Both men were nominated for the 2002 Best Score Tony Award. The show is also up for Best Musical, Best Book (John Guare), Best Actor in a Musical (John Lithgow) and Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Brian d'Arcy James).
Goodspeed is billing Actor, Lawyer, Indian Chief as "a musical return to childhood heroes." The company includes Brad Anderson (Fosse) as the fantasy-cowboy figure, Red Rock; Hal Robinson (Grand Hotel, "The Practice") as the reality older actor, Benjamin Gurney; Carnelia as the leader of the Greek-chorus trio of cowboy singers; Lisa Brescia (Aida national tour, Goodspeed's A Little Night Music) as grown daughter Jenny Gurney; Mark Edgar Stevens as 40ish lawyer, Jim, struggling to reconcile his youthful dream with what he's settled for; and Jacob Heimer as his younger self, Jimmy.
The cast also includes Blake Adams, Doug Ballard, Hunter Bell, Reed Birney and (rounding out the cowboy trio) Kevyn Morrow (Broadway's Dreamgirls and Smokey Joe's Cafe) and Roger Seyer (Broadway's Les Misérables and Miss Saigon). As composer-lyricist, Carnelia penned the score for Broadway's Is There Life After High School? and contributed four songs to Studs Terkel's Working for which he received a Tony Award nomination. Off-Broadway, he wrote the music and lyrics for 3 Postcards at Playwrights Horizons.
Bell was the associate artistic director of Atlanta's Alliance Theater for nine years. While artistic director at Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC, he directed the world premieres of the musicals Elmer Gantry and Hot Mikado, for which he won the Helen Hayes Award for Best Direction.
Kay Cole choreographs Actor, Lawyer, Indian Chief. She recently choreographed Do I Hear a Waltz? at the Pasadena Playhouse, Geffen Playhouse's Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks and Hudson Theatre's Grave White Way.
The music supervisor and orchestrator of Actor, Lawyer, Indian Chief is Steve Orich, with musical direction by Heather Chittenden-Luellen, sets by Robert Little, costumes by Susan E. Mickey and lighting by Diane Ferry Williams. Michael P. Price is producer of Goodspeed Musicals.
The Norma Terris Theatre is Goodspeed Musicals' developmental venue, a space for new or newly-worked shows to be presented free of the pressure of critics.
Tickets are $35. For information, call the Goodspeed box office at (860) 873-8668 or visit www.goodspeed.org.
To view Playbill On-Line's January Brief Encounter interview with Craig Carnelia, click here.
— By Kenneth Jones