York Theatre Has Weird Romance, Fanny, Best Foot Forward in Mufti Series, March 19-April 4

News   York Theatre Has Weird Romance, Fanny, Best Foot Forward in Mufti Series, March 19-April 4 The York Theatre Company's Spring 2004 Musicals in Mufti series of musicals-in-concert includes a revised version of Weird Romance, the pairing of two science-fiction musicals by composer Alan Menken, lyricist David Spencer and librettist Alan Brennert.

The series also includes the more traditional Fanny and Best Foot Forward. Performances are expected to start March 19; the series runs three consecutive weekends, one show per weekend.

Musicals in Mufti are performed for five performances each, at the company's home The Theatre at Saint Peter's in Citigroup Center, 619 Lexington Avenue (at 54th Street).

The Weird Romance performances include two new songs not on the cast album (which is now out of release). Sheryl Kaller directs, with music direction by Fred Lassen. Performances are 8 PM April 2, 2:30 PM and 8 PM April 3 and 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM April 4.

Best Foot Forward, by "Meet Me in St. Louis" songwriters Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane, is the 1941 romp that includes the football song, "Buckle Down, Winsocki." The libretto is by John Cecil Holm and its focus — like Babes in Arms before it —was young people. Nancy Walker appeared in the original, and a teen-aged Liza Minnelli played in the 1963 Off-Broadway revival.

Jay Binder, the casting director who also directs occasionally for the stage, will helm the York Mufti staging with music direction by Michael Dansicker. According to York artistic director, Binder is working with playwright David Ives on a version of the show "much closer to the 1941" script that combines "the best parts (and songs) of both." Performances are March 19, 20, 21.

Fanny is the lush 1954 Harold Rome musical using Marcel Pagnol's "Marius trilogy" characters in small-town France. S.N. Behrman and Joshua Logan penned the libretto, which offers heartbreak, comedy and painful romance. The score is recognized as lyricist-composer Rome's most mature and rich work.

Michael Montel will direct Fanny, with music direction by Andrew Gerle. Performances are March 26, 27, 28.

The York Theatre Company (James Morgan, artistic director; Louis Chiodo, consulting managing director) is now in its 35th season. It's the only theatre in New York City—and one of very few in the world—dedicated to developing and fully producing new musicals, and preserving neglected, notable shows from the past.

Tickets for all shows are available by calling (212) 868-4444. Tickets are $35 or $20 on day of performance (one half hour before the performance, cash only).

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Menken and Spencer's musical, Weird Romance, got a revival by The Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich, Connecticut, in November 2003.

Despite a 1992 staging by Off-Broadway's WPA Theatre and a cast album, the science-fiction-flavored show, made up of two one-act musicals, with a book by Brennert and additional book by David Spencer, isn't as widely known as Menken's Little Shop of Horrors or Beauty and the Beast (to say nothing of his film scores for Disney's "The Little Mermaid," "Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Pocahontas").

Weird Romance is licensed by Samuel French and is revived in theatres around the country, but has yet to resurface in a high-profile way.

Spencer heard from friends that Spirit of Broadway had licensed the musical and he called up the company's artistic director, Brett A. Bernadini, and offered him new material, some of which had been heard in a UK staging of the show. The director grabbed at it.

Two songs that were intended for, but not used, in 1992 were re-addressed for the UK run, and made their U.S. premiere in Norwich. Some book changes accompanied the songs. One of those songs, "It's a Night," was a 1992 orphan lyric looking for music until Menken set it for the later London run.

"About three years ago, the director of a small London production of Weird Romance contacted me through my agent to discuss the show, and it just seemed the perfect excuse for fixing those things that had always bugged me," Spencer said. "I called Alan and he agreed to provide music for the updates. So these are 'living' changes, not merely trunk substitutions. And the Spirit of Broadway production is the first one in the country to use them."

The acts are inspired by the stories "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" by James Tiptree, Jr., and "Her Pilgrim Soul" by Brennert.

Spencer, who is also a composer, has been developing his own musical, The Fabulist, a musical fable about storyteller Aesop, in recent seasons. It won the 2002 Richard Rodgers Development Award and has been tested in public readings recently (at the York, as a matter of fact). For Weird Romance, he is co-author of Act One, and Brennert is sole author of Act Two.

The Columbia cast album of Weird Romance, now out of print, features Ellen Greene, Jonathan Hadary, Danny Burstein, William Youmans, Jessica Molaskey, Valarie Pettiford, Sal Viviano, Marguerite MacIntyre and Eric Riley. Doug Besterman orchestrated.

The Girl Who Was Plugged In is about "a homeless bag-lady whose soul is transplanted into the body of a gorgeous female android by a company that manufactures celebrities," according to production notes. Her Pilgrim Soul, "involves a scientist who researches holographic imaging. One day a mysterious 'living' holograph, apparently a woman long dead, appears and changes his life forever."