"New" Loesser Musical, Señor Discretion Himself, Sings to the Strumming of Guitars, at DC's Arena Stage

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09 Apr 2004

Arena Stage's world premiere run of Frank Loesser's "lost" musical, Señor Discretion Himself, with Shawn Elliott as Pancito, begins performances April 9 at the famed DC not-for-profit.



With a 1968 libretto by the late Loesser, whose book is being enhanced by the trio of Chicano-Latino artists known as Culture Clash, the show also has music and lyrics by Loesser, the major musical theatre writer responsible for Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Charles Randolph-Wright directs a cast that includes Doreen Montalvo, Tony Chiroldes, Carlos Lopez, Robert Almodovar, John Bolton, Margo Reymundo, Elena Shaddow, Ivan Hernandez,Venny Carranza, Steven Cupo, Rayanne Gonzales, Deanna Harris, Laura-Lisa, Lynnette Marrero, Eduardo Placer and Diego Prieto.

Performances play Arena's Fichandler Stage in Washington, DC, through May 23.

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Shawn Elliott plays Pancito, owner of the oldest bakery in town — and he's also the town drunk. When a stranger (Ivan Hernandez) arrives, Pancito pretends to be something he's not, and through the miracle of the stranger's intervention, he becomes it. Meanwhile, Lupita (Elena Shaddow), Pancito's youngest daughter, is being courted by a various suitors, including Hilario, owner of the town's new bakery (John Bolton).

Elliott is a veteran of Lincoln Center Theater's Marie Christine and Goodspeed Musicals' Man of La Mancha.

According to Arena notes, Loesser wrote a complete draft of the show (based on a story by Budd Schulberg) but did not polish it before his 1969 death, and the project was shelved.

Randolph-Wright staged Arena's 50th anniversary staging of Loesser's Guys and Dolls with Maurice Hines; the show subsequently went on national tour.

Performances of Señor Discretion play Arena's mainstaage, the Fichandler. Opening is April 15.

Loesser's widow, Jo Sullivan, was so pleased with Arena's Guys and Dolls she gave permission for the material to be explored. Randolph-Wright and Culture Clash's Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza have been working on the piece in the last year. The three men were going to play a trio of priests in the show, but pulled away from appearing in it in order to concentrate on the writing (they usually write and perform their own work).

The show is set in Mexico, far from the urban jungle of Manhattan where Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed succeeded. In the show, "a Mexican town is transformed by the power of learning and the wisdom of the heart." The accompaniment is expected to be kissed with Latin guitars.

The short story originally appeared in Playboy magazine.

According to Steven Suskin's book, "Show Tunes," Loesser spent two years working on the show about a "small-town, middle-aged Mexican baker." Some 17 songs were written for the show, and two — "I Cannot Let You Go," "You Don't Understand Me" — have been recorded. The show apparently had a workshop in 1985, but nothing came of it.

The Arena production team includes Dorianna Sanchez (choreography), Brian Cimmet (musical director), Thomas Lynch (set design), Emilio Sosa (costume design), Michael Gilliam (lighting design), Timothy M. Thompson (sound design), Larry Hochman (orchestrations), Joey Arreguin (dance arranger).

For information, visit www.arenastage.org.