B.D. Wong Embodies Nearly a Dozen Characters in Herringbone, Opening at La Jolla

By Kenneth Jones
07 Aug 2009

B.D. Wong
B.D. Wong
Photo by Craig Schwartz

Herringbone, the darkly comic solo musical about a boy taken under the wing of a vaudevillian, only to be possessed by an evil spirit, opens Aug. 7 after previews from Aug. 1 at La Jolla Playhouse. B.D. Wong stars in the tour-de-force that includes singing, dancing and playing 11 roles.

The singular show has a book by Tom Cone, music by Skip Kennon, lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh and is directed by Roger Rees. Tony Award winner Wong (M. Butterfly; "Law & Order: SVU") stars. Herringbone runs to Aug. 30 in the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre.

According to La Jolla, "Set during the Great Depression, this darkly comic, highly theatrical musical tells the tale of eight-year-old George, who, when taken under the wing of a vaudeville veteran, becomes possessed by the spirit of his mentor's vengeful partner — and suddenly shows a remarkable affinity for tap dancing. As the play progresses, a climactic battle ensues over George's mind, body and soul."

Herringbone has been seen at Williamstown Theatre Festival, Playwrights Horizons, Hartford Stage, Edinburgh Festival, Prince Music Theater, McCarter Theatre and St. Nicholas Theater.

The La Jolla creative team includes Dan Lipton (music director-conductor); Darren Lee (choreographer); Eugene Lee (set designer); William Ivey Long (costume designer); Christopher Akerlind (lighting designer); and Leon Rothenberg (sound designer).



For this latest production, Kennon told Playbill.com, "Tom Cone has added a few lines here and there to clarify and underline a few ideas in the show. Dan Lipton has repeated more or subtracted from some of my vamps here and there to accommodate new staging for this new set and space. Several numbers have been completely restaged by Darren. B.D. is trying some very different choices in some pivotal scenes. Some dialogue was moved from before a song to the interior of the song. The response out there so far has been hugely enthusiastic with standing ovations for B.D."

Wong won the Tony, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Theatre World Awards for his performance in the Broadway hit M. Butterfly. Additional Broadway credits include Face Value; You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown; and Pacific Overtures.

For more information call (858) 550-1010 or visit www.lajollaplayhouse.org.

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Librettist Cone's plays include Herringbone, Cubistique, Beautiful Tigers, Stargazing, Love at Last Sight and True Mummy. His adaptations of classic plays include Molière's The Miser and Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters, which premiered at the Stratford Festival where he was a writer-in-residence. His librettos include The Architect, composed by David MacIntyre; The Gang, composed by Peter Hannan; and Game Misconduct, composed by Leslie Uyeda. His new play, Donald and Lenore, will premiere at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, 2010.

Composer Kennon's credits include Here's Our Girl (lyrics: Ellen Fitzhugh; workshop NYSF/Playwrights Horizons); Don Juan DeMarco (workshop, Seattle Rep); the one-act Afternoon Tea (book/lyrics: Eduardo Machado; INTAR, 59E59). He wrote music and lyrics for The Last Starfighter (Storm Theatre, New York Musical Theatre Festival); Blanco (Goodspeed, National Alliance for Musical Theatre); Feathertop (WPA Theatre, PA Stage); Time and Again (book: Jack Viertel; MTC, Old Globe, O'Neill Center); the one-act Plaisir D'Amour (book: Terrence McNally; 59E59); and Disney's DVD Premiere Award winner The Hunchback of Notre Dame II. He moderated the first year in the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop for 20 years (overseeing the program for ten of those years) and taught at The Neighborhood Playhouse for ten years.

Fitzhugh musicals include Grind, with Larry Grossman, directed by Harold Prince (Mark Hellinger Theater); Big Blonde, with Walter Edgar Kennon (developed at Playwrights Horizons and The Public Theatre); Paper Moon, with Marty Casella and Grossman (Goodspeed to Tokyo); and Muscle, with James Lapine and William Finn. Upcoming: Paradise Found, with Richard Nelson, Johann Strauss II and Jonathan Tunick, directed by Harold Prince and Susan Stroman; Los Otros, music by Michael John LaChiusa, directed by Jonathan Butterell (commissioned by Center Theater Group). Additionally, she contributed lyrics within Adam Guettel's Myths and Hymns, songs (with Finn) for sequels to The Brave Little Toaster; as well as songs for the films "That's Dancing" and "The Great Mouse Detective," with Grossman and Henry Mancini. Fitzhugh has received numerous Emmy, Drama Desk and Tony Award nominations.