The York Theatre Company's annual "Musicals in Mufti" series, showcasing "underappreciated" old musicals in scrappy concert readings, has proved so popular that artistic director James Morgan has added a second slate of shows to the 1999-2000 season.
George Forrest and Robert Wright's Kean, the 1961 musical about the famed actor, Edmund Kean, is the only title (of three shows) announced so far. Performances begin Jan. 14, 2000.
Under consideration are Comden-Green-Styne's Hallelujah, Baby!, Richard Rodgers and Sheldon Harnick's Rex, Ervin Drake's What Makes Sammy Run?, Johnny Burke's Donnybrook! and Carolyn Leigh and Elmer Bernstein's How Now, Dow Jones.
The 1999 Mufti season ends Oct. 1-3 with a concert reading of Duke Ellington and John Latouche's The Beggar's Holiday. Noel Coward's The Girl Who Came to Supper and Harold Rome's Destry Rides Again preceded it in September.
* The Mufti series, as per the military-rooted title, is presented in "civilian" clothes (usually accessorized) with no set. It's best described as a concert series, with performances of the entire script of shows and actors carrying scripts in hand.
Musical theatre buffs have flocked to the limited runs in past seasons because the focus is on obscure, overlooked or (as York has called them) "underappreciated" shows that deserve another gander.
Each of the three productions in the Mufti series run five performances and has 35 hours of rehearsal, whether the company is ready or not, as Morgan puts it.
A revival of Noel Coward's The Girl Who Came to Supper (1963) opened the Mufti season Sept. 17-19.
A cast recording of the 1998-99 Mufti series concert of the satiric 1920s-set musical, Billion Dollar Baby, is expected to be released later this year. Kristin Chenoweth starred. The score is by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Morton Gould.
The York Theatre Company is at the Theatre at Saint Peter's, Citicorp Center, 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street, in Manhattan. Call (212) 935-5824 for information.
Next in the Mufti series, Duke Ellington and John Latouche's Beggar's Holiday, from 1946, inspired by John Gay's Beggar's Opera, gets a revised book by Dale Wasserman (Man of La Mancha) in honor of the Ellington centenary.
According to Erik Haagensen, who is working at the York this season, the musical is historically significant "as the first Broadway musical to present a serious interracial romance." He told Playbill On-Line, "When Alfred Drake kissed Jet MacDonald, immediate and nightly walk outs occurred."
It played 111 performances. The original cast featured Alfred Drake as Macheath and the Broadway debutZero Mostel. Casting for the York concert presentation is being finalized. The director is Kent Gash, a regional director (Theatre Virginia, Alabama Shakespeare Festival). It plays Oct. 1-3.
The Beggar's Holiday cast includes Jerry Dixon, La Chanze, Pamela Isaacs, Tami Swartz, Amy Jo Phillips, Ken Prymus, J.C. Montgomery, Jesse Means, Joe Langworth, Lana Gordon and Cheryl Monroe.
-- By Kenneth Jones