By Kenneth Jones
14 Aug 2004
The full-length showings, intended for theatre owners, producers and other industry insiders, will take place 3 PM Aug. 19 and 1 PM Aug. 20 at Off-Broadway's Little Shubert Theatre, 42 W. 42nd Street.
The presentations will feature a cast of 23 (including Grammy Award winner and Broadway and country star Gary Morris, James Barbour and Tony Award nominee Gavin Creel) and a full orchestra of 20. Book, music and lyrics are by Jill Santoriello, who drew on the classic Charles Dickens novel.
The first 100 people to email the production at firstname.lastname@example.org can receive one or two tickets to either of the two presentations.
E-mailers should include their name, a contact number, the date of the presentation they wish to attend and if they want one or two tickets. Winners will be notified with a confirmation by email.
James Barbour will be selfless Sydney Carton, Gavin Creel will be lucky Charles Darnay and Michelle Dawson is corrupt Madame Defarge in Manhattan presentations of the musical A Tale of Two Cities.
By invitation only, the Aug. 19-20 presentations are being mounted to attract industry interest, including theatre owners. The musical is capitalized at $10.5 million.
Producers are also exploring a plan to release a limited number of tickets to fans who are interested in a first-look at the dawning show.
Also joining the previously-announced Gary Morris (as Dr. Manette) in the concert staged reading of the Dickens inspired show by composer-lyricist-librettist Jill Santoriello are 16-year-old double-platinum recording artist and inspirational pop phenomenon Billy Gilman as The Boy; Ed Dixon (Les Misérables, The Scarlet Pimpernel) as Jarvis Lorry; Jenny Powers (Meg in the upcoming Little Women) as Lucie Manette; Katherine McGrath (The Music Man) as Miss Pross; Alex Santoriello (Les Misérables, Chess) as Ernest Defarge; Tim Shew (Les Misérables, Guys & Dolls) as Jerry Cruncher; Nick Wyman (currently in Sly Fox) as John Barsad; Allen Fitzpatrick (42nd Street, The Scarlet Pimpernel) as Marquis St. Evermonde and Rebecca Robbins as The Seamstress.
Also featured in the cast are Paul Castree, Bill Evans, Mark Aldrich, Michael Paternostro, Heather Laws, Matt Stocke, Jonathan Hammond, Lisa Richard, Jennifer Brown and Miles Kath. Narration is by Les Minski.
Presented by producers Barbra Russell & Ron Sharpe, A Tale of Two Cities is directed by Guy Stroman and boasts a 20-member orchestra.
"Set against the epic backdrop of the French Revolution and based on the classic Charles Dickens novel, A Tale of Two Cities is a sweeping musical about injustice, vengeance and the redemptive power of love," according to the announcement. "When Dr. Manette (Gary Morris) is released from the French Bastille after 17 years, he must be resurrected from the brink of madness by his daughter, Lucie (Jenny Powers). In England they meet two very different men: the exiled French aristocrat, Charles Darnay (Gavin Creel), whom Lucie marries, and the drunken cynic, Sydney Carton (James Barbour). Soon family secrets and political intrigue combine to draw Lucie and her family back to Paris. At the height of the Reign of Terror, the musical finds an unlikely hero in Carton, inspired by love to make an extraordinary sacrifice."
The presentation will feature musical direction by Wendy Bobbitt Cavett and orchestrations by Edward B. Kessel and Bob Krogstad.
The show has book, music and lyrics by newcomer Santoriello. The presentations are 3 PM Aug. 19 and 1 PM Aug. 20 at The Little Shubert Theatre, 422 W. 42nd Street.
Morris is the Grammy Award-winning country singer who played Jean Valjean on Broadway for a time. Creel was Tony Award-nommed for Thoroughly Modern Millie. Dawson appeared in Ragtime. James Barbour was recently in Assassins and starred as Rochester in Broadway's Jane Eyre.
A Tale of Two Cities has been in development as a finalist in the Eugene O'Neill Center Musical Theatre Workshop and in a premiere symphonic concert in Indianapolis featuring a 40-piece orchestra and a 50-voice chorale (narrated by Tony winner Richard Kiley).
A 23-track concept recording of the musical was released in 2002 and is currently available throughout the U.S. and Europe. The CD features 56 vocalists including Bryce Dallas Howard (star of M. Night Shyamalan's current motion picture "The Village") and such Broadway performers as Paul Castree, J. Mark McVey, Christiane Noll, Peter Samuel, Alex Santoriello, Tim Shew, Natalie Toro and Nick Wyman, as well as musicians from the Indianapolis Symphony and New Jersey Philharmonic Orchestra.
Writer Santoriello, whose day job is original programming development at Showtime, called the show a traditional book musical that is not all-sung — though a casual listener of the concept recording will hear music and lyrics in the lush pop tradition of Les Miz, The Phantom of the Opera and The Scarlet Pimpernel.
The presentations (representing the entire show) will feature musical direction by Wendy Bobbitt Cavett (current musical director for the Las Vegas production of Mamma Mia!) and orchestrations by Edward B. Kessel and Bob Krogstad.
Santoriello was captivated by the novel in her teens years, and wrote some songs for it as a hobby, she told Playbill On-Line. A fan of the Rodgers and Hammerstein tradition (and later of Stephen Sondheim), she thought years ago that "A Tale of Two Cities" would make a great musical.
She wasn't alone. There have been countless international musical versions of the story over the past century, though none has become a widely-known commercial hit. (Coincidentally, on Aug. 19, Two Cities, a separate musical version of the story bows in Stamford, CT.)
In 1987, Santoriello, who is a self-taught musician, used songs from a formative version of the show to audition and get into the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. There was no script at that point. She didn't plan to be her own librettist, it just happened out of necessity, she said.
What about A Tale of Two Cities speaks most strongly to Santoriello? "Love being stronger than hate," the writer said. "And how heroes come out of the strangest places."
About five years ago she met her current producers when she was putting together an early demo recording for the show.
Producers Barbra Russell and Ron Sharpe are a husband and wife team who are producers as well as performers. Together they have produced the CDs "Sweethearts," "Ed Dixon Sings Ed Dixon," the children's CD "The Laughing Ground" (with narration by Stacy Keach) and the concept album for "A Tale of Two Cities." As an actress, Russell has played Cosette in Les Misérables and the leads in Little Shop of Horrors, Oklahoma!, Side by Side by Sondheim, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and The Fantasticks. Sharpe is the only actor to have played both male lead roles of Marius and Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. Other Broadway credits include the original productions of The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Civil War and Disney's King David.
A 23-track concept recording of the musical was released in 2002 and is currently available in the U.S. and Europe. Guy Stroman directed the world premieres of Free Fall, written by and starring Sandy Duncan, at The Berkshire Theatre Festival, and Sugar Down Billie Hoak, Off-Broadway at the Theatre at St. Peter's. He has directed productions with stars ranging from Lynn Redgrave and Rachel Kempson to Jean Stapleton and Joy Behar. As an actor, he originated the role of Frankie in Forever Plaid in New York, London and Los Angeles, where he won best acting awards from the L.A. Drama Critics and Drama-Logue. He has since directed and choreographed several long-running companies of Forever Plaid.
A Tale of Two Cities is billed as "the Broadway bound epic new musical." While the aim is for Broadway, no plan or schedule has been revealed.
For more information on A Tale of Two Cities, visit the official website at www.ataleof2cities.com.