By Kenneth Jones
03 Sep 2008
|Photo by Elisabeth Novick|
The New York Post reported Sept. 3 that Prince would direct the Broadway-aimed musical in spring 2009. No word on where or when the show — with music by waltz king Johann Strauss II and Jonathan Tunick and lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh — would surface. Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, which programs the Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum and the Kirk Douglas Theatre in L.A., produced the April 2008 reading, which was co-directed by Prince and Susan Stroman.
Prince told the Post that the musical's likely stars would be Hensley, Cullum, Mandy Patinkin and Judy Kaye.
Paradise Found, with a libretto by Richard Nelson, is inspired by Joseph Roth's Vienna-set novel, "The Tale of the 1002nd Night."
Darius de Haas (Marie Christine, Rent, Carousel) played The Eunuch at the center of the show in the spring reading.
The April 25 presentation of the show picked up where the team left off in January, when a reading was canceled due to Prince (The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music) taking ill with a minor stroke.
Music director Charles Prince, the respected musician son of Tony Award-winning director Prince, is the project's musical director. Composer Tunick is widely known for orchestrating many Broadway musicals, including the works of Stephen Sondheim. His recent Broadway orchestrating job was A Catered Affair.
Strauss (1825-1899) is the Austrian composer known for his sensuous waltzes, including "The Blue Danube."
Tony-winning director and choreographer Stroman (The Producers, Contact, Young Frankenstein) last collaborated with Prince on the Broadway revival of Show Boat.
Nelson is the respected American playwright of Some Americans Abroad who won a Tony Award for his libretto to James Joyce's The Dead. His Conversations in Tusculum was produced by The Public Theater in 2007-08.
Fitzhugh penned lyrics to the Prince-directed musical, Grind, and the musical Paper Moon. She is also lyricist of Herringbone (music by Skip Kennon), which starts previews Sept. 5 at the McCarter Theatre in New Jersey and opens there Sept. 12.
The April reading cast included Tony winner Shuler Hensley (Young Frankenstein, Tarzan, Oklahoma!), Tony winner John Cullum (of Prince's On the 20th Century), long-time Phantom of the Opera star George Lee Andrews, Show Boat veteran and Mary Poppins mother Rebecca Luker, Phantom Tony winner Judy Kaye, Kate Baldwin (White Christmas, Wonderful Town), LoveMusik veteran Graham Rowat, Daniel Marcus (Urinetown), Ann Arvia (Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins), Lisa Datz (The Full Monty, The Boys From Syracuse), Laura Dekkers (The Woman in White), Eric Michael Gillett (The Frogs, Sweet Smell of Success), Chris Hoch (Die Mommie Die!, Beauty and the Beast), Jim Poulos (Rent, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer) and Rachel Ulanet (LoveMusik).
Publishers Weekly characterizes the Roth novel this way: "A master fabulist and linguistic architect, Roth (1884-1939) examines the cultural crucible of fin de siecle Vienna through the eyes of his protagonist, the Persian monarch Shah-in-Shah. Seen this way, Roth's Vienna is, as the novelist Hermann Kesten put it, 'an exotic old-Austria, a kind of vanished, fairy-tale Wild East.' Things do get wild when the Shah, whose harem back at home is 365 wives strong, decides to sample 'the amorous arts of the Occident.' His unwitting encounter with a Viennese prostitute sets in motion the novel's Byzantine plot contortions and introduces a cast of eclectic characters. Roth's antic playfulness is, however, tempered by a serious consideration of the customs of the times. The Shah's visit upsets Viennese society at every level as it destabilizes social hierarchies and calls character into question. Roth decorates his well-wrought plot with lush description as he waxes philosophical on destiny and responsibility. Originally published in 1939 by the Dutch firm of De Gemeenschap, this historical novel proves its staying power, despite the tests of time and translation."
Prince directed the premiere productions of Cabaret, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, The Phantom of the Opera, She Loves Me, Company, Follies, Candide, Pacific Overtures, Evita, Parade and Bounce. Before becoming a director, Prince's productions (as a producer) included The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello! and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Among the plays he has directed are Hollywood Arms, The Visit, The Great God Brown, End of the World, Play Memory and his own play, Grandchild of Kings. Recently, he prepared a new version of Phantom, which is running at Las Vegas' Venetian Hotel. His opera productions have been seen at Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, Vienna Staatsoper and the Theater Colon in Buenos Aires. He is the recipient of 21 Tony Awards.