Juno, with Tony Winner Victoria Clark, Begins City Center Encores! Run March 27

By Andrew Gans
27 Mar 2008

Conrad John Schuck and Victoria Clark
Conrad John Schuck and Victoria Clark
Photo by Joan Marcus

The Encores! production of Marc Blitzstein and Joseph Stein's short-lived musical Juno, directed by Tony Award winner Garry Hynes, begins its limited run at City Center March 27.

Tony Award winner Victoria Clark and Spelling Bee's Celia Keenan-Bolger, who co-starred in the out-of-town tryouts of The Light in the Piazza, again play mother (Juno Boyle) and daughter (Mary Boyle) in the March 27-30 production of Juno with Conrad John Schuck as Clark's husband ("Captain" Jack Boyle) and Michael Arden as Mary's suitor Jerry Devine.

They are joined onstage by Dermot Crowley (Joxer Boyle), Tyler Hanes (Johnny Boyle), Clarke Thorell (Charlie Bentham), Rosaleen Linehan (Mrs. Madigan), Louisa Flaningam (Mrs. Brady), Jennifer Smith (Miss Quinn) and Kay Walbye (Mrs. Coyne) with Timothy W. Bish, Troy Edward Bowles, Pamela Brumley, Callie Carter, Leah Edwards, Kurt Froman, Ryan Jackson, Mary Ann Lamb, Jay Lusteck, Mary MacLeod, Annie McGreevey, J. Maxwell Miller, Pamela Otterson, John Selya, Timothy Shew, Meagan Thomas, Kevin Vortmann, Alan M-L Wagner, and Patrick Wetzel.

Encores! artistic director Jack Viertel first mentioned the possibility of mounting a production of Juno to Clark over three years ago. "He's very, very fond of the show and thought that it was a perfect project for Encores!," Clark recently told Playbill.com. "They really discover these little gems — that's one of the things they do best is finding shows that people don't really know or that have been forgotten for various reasons. [Juno] was created for Shirley Booth and Melvyn Douglas. They were non-singers, but Agnes De Mille was the choreographer, and there were dream ballets, and it has an unbelievable score by Marc Blitzstein, who wrote Regina and Cradle Will Rock."

Clark thinks presenting Juno at this juncture in our own country's history is particularly timely: "It's an interesting piece to revive now because it really does look at the cost of war. The piece is basically about a family who is living in a tenement in Dublin, and this mother trying to hold this family together. The son has already lost an arm to fighting and has the IRA after him, and [she has a] husband who keeps getting out of work. She is actually supporting the whole family. Her daughter has a factory job but is on strike. So nobody is bringing in income except for her, and she is trying to keep body and souls together and keep everybody in good spirits. [Juno Boyle is a] a very strong, iconic character."



Michael Arden and Celia Keenan-Bolger
photo by Joan Marcus
Clark is particularly fond of Blitzstein's score, which features the haunting ballad "I Wish It So" as well as "We're Alive" and "One Kind World." "There is some beautiful singing, and there's a lot of choral singing. In my opinion it's Blitzstein's answer to Street Scene," Clark said. "It's his version of that gorgeous Kurt Weill opera. It's very similar — the whole community is affected and struggling, but you see the political situation through one family's eyes. It's a beautiful story. It's definitely a tragedy, but it's told in this Irish way, which has a lot of wit and a lot of humor and a lot of practical common sense. I think it's a beautiful piece. I really do. I'm very excited about it."

Juno, which features music direction by Eric Stern and musical staging by Warren Carlyle, boasts the show's original orchestrations, penned by Blitzstein, Hershey Kay and Robert Russell Bennett. The design team also includes John Lee Beatty (scenic consultant), Toni Leslie James (costume consultant), Ken Billington (lighting) and Scott Lehrer (sound).

Juno is based on Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock and features a score by Blitzstein and a book by Stein. The musical opened at Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre on March 9, 1959. The cast featured Shirley Booth and Melvyn Douglas.

Juno, according to press notes, "chronicles the disintegration of an Irish family in Dublin in the early 1920s during the confrontation between the Irish Republican Army and the British. Juno Boyle [Victoria Clark] is the hardworking matriarch who struggles heroically to hold her family together in the face of war, betrayal, and her husband's drinking."

Victoria Clark received a 2005 Tony Award for her performance in The Light in the Piazza. Her other Broadway credits include Cabaret, Urinetown, Titanic, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Guys and Dolls and A Grand Night for Singing. Among Clark's screen credits are "Cradle Will Rock," "Law & Order," "Law & Order: SVU" and "Sweeney Todd in Concert." As a director, she helmed the 92nd Street Y's "Lyrics & Lyricists" series Serenade in Blue: The Mack Gordon Song Cavalcade. PS Classics released Clark's debut solo recording, "Fifteen Seconds of Grace," in November 2007. The actress, who co-starred in the City Center Encores! production of Follies, will also be seen in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening," which is due in movie theatres in June.

Show times are March 27 and 28 at 8 PM, March 29 at 2 and 8 PM and March 30 at 6:30 PM.

City Center is located in Manhattan at West 55th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. Tickets are available by calling (212) 581-1212 or by visiting www.nycitycenter.org.

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The Encores! season kicked off with Applause (Feb. 7-10, 2008) starring Tony winner Christine Ebersole and Erin Davie; following Juno will be No, No, Nanette (May 8-12) starring Mara Davi, Sandy Duncan, Beth Leavel, Rosie O'Donnell, Shonn Wiley and Fred Willard.