Tales of the City "Bites Into That Lotus" As New Musical Opens in San Francisco May 31

By Adam Hetrick
31 May 2011

Judy Kaye
Judy Kaye
Photo by Kevin Berne

A Midwestern transplant named Maryann Singleton answers an ad to rent a secluded one-bedroom apartment on Russian Hill and is handed the keys to a new life at the mythical address of 28 Barbary Lane. So begins Armistead Maupin's San Francisco-set work Tales of the City, which takes on a new life of its own as a world-premiere musical opening May 31 at the American Conservatory Theatre.

Tony Award-winning Avenue Q book writer Jeff Whitty adapted the stage production, based on the first two novels in Maupin's series, which trace the intertwining lives of colorful San Francisco residents in the 1970's. Jake Shears and John "JJ" Garden, of the glam-pop band the Scissor Sisters, authored the score for Tales of the City.

Tony Award nominee Jason Moore (Shrek, Avenue Q, Steel Magnolias) directs the production that began previews May 18 and will play an extended run through July 10. Choreography is by Larry Keigwin.

Playbill.com spoke with Shears and Garden on their process for writing Tales of the City. "I think both of us made a conscious decision not to limit ourselves to a kind of '70s pastiche," Shears said. "My view on the books is that they are very timeless and that's why we're making this show now. It's also why people still read them and they're still in print. It's just a timeless story. I wanted the music to feel timeless as well. Our songwriting already leans into that sort of '70s song craft as it is. So, I thought it was really necessary not to overthink that aspect, and to just set out to write songs naturally and that's what we've done."



Click here to read Playbill.com's full feature with Shears and Garden.

Tony Award winner Judy Kaye (The Phantom of the Opera, On the Twentieth Century, Souvenir) leads the cast as enigmatic pot-smoking landlady Anna Madrigal, with Betsy Wolfe (Everyday Rapture, 110 in the Shade) as Ohio native Mary Ann Singleton, Mary Birdsong (Martin Short Fame Becomes Me, "Reno 911") as the free-spirited Mona Ramsay and Wesley Taylor (Rock of Ages, The Addams Family) as Michael "Mouse" Tollivar.

Both Wolf and Birdsong have been part of Tales of the City since its early development during the 2009 Eugene O'Neill Theater Center Musical Theater Conference.

Josh Breckenridge and Wesley Taylor
photo by Kevin Berne

Tales of the City also features Tony Award nominee Manoel Felciano (Sweeney Todd) as Norman Neal Williams, Patrick Lane as Brian Hawkins, Richard Poe (Cry-Baby) as Edgar Halcyon, Kathleen Monteleone (Legally Blonde) as Dede Halcyon-Day, Andrew Samonsky (South Pacific) as Beauchamp Day, Josh Breckenridge (Scottsboro Boys) as Jon Fielding, Diane J. Findlay as Mother Mucca and Alex Hsu as Lionel.

The ensemble includes Keith Bearden, Kris Cusick, Kimberly Jensen, Stuart Marland, Pamela Myers, Julie Reiber and Josh Walden.

Check out Playbill.com's photo gallery of the colorful denizens of 28 Barbary Lane.

The production has scenic design by Douglas W. Schmidt, costume design by Beaver Bauer, lighting design by Robert Wierzel, sound design by John Shivers, orchestrations by Bruce Coughlin and arrangements by Steven Oremus. Carmel Dean serves as music supervisor, with Cian McCarthy as music director and conductor.

Here's how ACT bills the work: "On the bustling streets of 1970s San Francisco, neon lights pierce through the fog-drenched skies, disco music explodes from crowded nightclubs, and a wide-eyed Midwestern girl finds a new home — and creates a new kind of family — with the characters at 28 Barbary Lane. Three decades after Armistead Maupin mesmerized millions with his daily column in the city's newspapers, detailing the lives and (multiple) loves of Mary Ann, Mouse, Mona, Brian, and their beloved but mysterious landlady Mrs. Madrigal, his iconic San Francisco saga comes home as a momentous new musical."

"Tales of the City" has also been adapted into several television miniseries featuring performances by Olympia Dukakis, Laura Linney, Chloe Webb, Parker Posey, Marcus D'Amico, Donald Moffat, Thomas Gibson, Barbara Garrick, Nina Foch, Paul Gross, Stanley DeSantis and Philip Moon.

For tickets call (415) 749-2228 or visit ACT-SF.