Zanna! Musical Aims Its Magic Wand Toward Summer 2006 on Broadway

News   Zanna! Musical Aims Its Magic Wand Toward Summer 2006 on Broadway The producers of the musical Zanna! are still planning to make some magic on Broadway, but are now aiming the show at summer 2006, Playbill.com has learned.

Producer Jack M. Dalgleish, who shepherded the show (previously known as Zanna, Don't!) from a developmental run at Theatre Row (2002) to a full production at Off-Broadway's John Houseman Theatre (2003), remains lead producer. He told Playbill.com June 28 the goal is Broadway in summer 2006 rather than the previously hoped-for summer 2005. He did not elaborate on a creative team or reported changes to the eight-actor script.

Around the time of the June 2003 Off-Broadway close of the show, Dalgleish told Playbill.com he would concentrate his efforts on reinventing the show for Broadway.

The project, a brightly-colored musical parable about an alternate world (a high school, in fact) where gay people are the norm, has concept, book, music and lyrics by Tim Acito. Alexander Dinelaris co-wrote the book.

Eric Schaeffer was previously mentioned as the future director, but is no longer attached.

The critically-embraced audience favorite ended its Off-Broadway run June 29, 2003 at the John Houseman Theatre after 17 previews and 119 performances. The show was well-received, but the Off-Broadway berth wasn't paying off due to the Off-Broadway location, among other factors, the producer said at the time. The Off-Broadway capitalization was $750,000. The price tag from Broadway might be as high as $7 million, Dalgleish previously said.

PS Classics recorded the cast album June 9, 2003, and it has since become a big seller for the label. Jai Rodriguez of Rent and TV's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," played Zanna in 2003 (and his work is preserved on the disc).

The title character is a magic-wand-wielding teen who helps match-make at a high school where everyone is gay — until two characters come out of the closet as heterosexuals.

Lyricist-librettist-composer Tim Acito was a new voice in the musical theatre landscape with his quirky pop-infused show about romances in a high school where gay is straight and where straight kids are shunned.

Dalgleish, an associate producer of Off-Broadway's Shakespeare's R&J, discovered the then-largely bookless Zanna, Don't! at the Yale Cabaret in New Haven in March 2001, and told writer Acito he wanted to develop the show further, if Acito was willing to continue refining the piece.

"I called the author and told him how I felt," Dalgleish previously told Playbill.com. "The basis was there: He had set up this inventive, ingenious reverted world, but Zanna was a drag queen. I said, 'I see a great piece of musical theatre, but I'm not interested in producing a drag show, and if you're interested in going on the journey, let's go.'"

The small cast size (eight), bubble-gum flavors and innocent love-thy-neighbor theme suggested Zanna, Don't! would have had a huge life in regional theatres following its earlier production. But the producer and writer jumped into rewrites (to say nothing of the title change), making the earlier show obsolete (and the cast album perhaps something of a collectors' item). There is talk in the theatre community that the Broadway cast will be larger. It's expected that performers with some marquee value will be courted for some roles.

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The 2003 cast at the Houseman included Jai Rodriguez (as Zanna), Anika Larsen, Darius Nichols, Amanda Ryan Paige, Enrico Rodriguez, Rob Sapp, Shelley Thomas, Jared Zeus and standbys Gregory Treco, Jasmin Walker and Willis White.

Devanand Janki directed and choreographed the 2003 Off-Broadway run, which was preceded by a developmental fall 2002 production under the umbrella of Amas Musical Theatre (in association with Jack M. Dalgleish and Stephanie Joel) at the Kirk Theatre in Theatre Row (Oct. 8-Nov. 3, 2002). Among slight casting changes from 2002 to 2003 was the hiring of Jai Rodriguez in the title role.

"To me, the show's about love and relationships and about people who have felt 'different' in their lives — and that's everybody in the world," Dalgleish previously told Playbill.com.

Reviews for the fully-produced 2002 run, which had production design by Wade Laboissonniere and Tobin Ost, were constructive and encouraging. Audiences and critics compared the high school-set show to Babes in Arms, Bye Bye Birdie, Rent and Grease, and even the jaded chatterati on internet message boards cooed about the work.

Dalgleish shared the score with several producers in New York, but only Donna Trinkoff, producing director of Amas Musical Theatre signed on, offering the nascent show two readings prior to the Oct. 8-Nov. 3, 2002, full staging. The show also fit nicely with Amas' mission of "multi-ethnic musical theatre."

The work has a varied pop sound and bright, middle-of-the road, matter-of-fact attitude about gay love.

"The gay audience is a core market," Dalgleish said, agreeing that audiences who come to the show are surprised to learn the work is not the raunchy, campy or fleshy sort of show that some people expect from some gay-oriented stage shows.

He said his challenge as a producer is to let people know the show is a social satire with heart and sincerity, boasting a score that flirts with funk, rock, pop, classic musical theatre, country and more.

Trouble brews in the show's gay world when high school pals Kate and Steve find they are attracted to each other after sharing a passionate moment in the school musical (about straights in the military). They are shunned as outsiders and even consider running off to San Francisco, which has a reputation as a straight enclave.

While it does spoof gay and gender attitudes, the show ultimately "lets you see individuals and not stereotypes," said Dalgleish.

Acito is a graduate of University of California at Berkeley. He received an MFA at Yale in spring 2002. His musical, The Sungatherers, premiered at Yale in May 2002.

For more information about the Zanna, Don't! cast album, visit www.psclassics.com.

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