Tony Award winner John Doyle directs Tony nominee Judy Kuhn ( Chess, She Loves Me, Les Miserables, Rags) as ugly Fosca, Melissa Errico (a Tony nominee for Amour) as the beautiful Clara and Ryan Silverman (a past Raoul of The Phantom of the Opera) as the handsome soldier, Giorgio, who inspires them both.
Off-Broadway's Classic Stage Company produces the new production of the 1994 musical that won the Tony Award as Best Musical. The libretto is by James Lapine, the music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Previews began Feb. 8 on CSC's three-quarter thrust stage, occupied by an all-male cast playing all roles (including supporting female characters) except for the central triangle.
Doyle also designs the set. This is not an actor-musician staging in the tradition of Doyle's Broadway productions of Company and Sweeney Todd. Music director Rob Berman (Encores!) is in a stage-right loft with a group of musicians. In Doyle's spare, actor-driven production, there is a feeling that the tale is a kind of dream or memory of Giorgio's, echoing in his mind and heart. Unlike the original Broadway production, grasping Fosca comes off as plain, plaintive and earthbound, rather than a mole-covered witch grasping at Giorgio.
Passion — based on the Ettore Scola film "Passione D'Amore" — plays a limited engagement through April 7. Read the Playbill magazine interview with Kuhn and Errico. The cast also includes John Antony, Tony nominee Stephen Bogardus (Colonel Ricci), Jeffry Denman (Lieutenant Barri), Jason Michael Evans (Private Augenti), Amy Justman (understudy), Ken Krugman (Lieutenant Torasso), Orville Mendoza (Sergeant Lombardi), Tom Nelis (Doctor Tambourri) and Will Reynolds (Major Rizzoli/Ludovic).
Passion is the inaugural production of CSC's Musical Theatre Initiative, which has support from The Ted and Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund and The Angelson Family Foundation.
This Passion has costumes by Ann Hould-Ward, lighting by Jane Cox and sound by Dan Moses Schreier. Orchestrations are by Jonathan Tunick. Makeup design is by Angelina Avallone. Hair consultants are J. Jared Janas & Rob Greene. Production stage manager is Adam John Hunter. Assistant stage manager is Claudia Lynch.
This is the second time Kuhn has slipped into the restless heart of ailing Fosca, who gets to sing a handful of choice late-career Sondheim songs: "Loving You," "I Read" and "I Wish I Could Forget You." She played the role at The Kennedy Center in 2002 for its Sondheim Celebration (opposite Michael Cerveris, with Rebecca Luker as rival Clara).
"I've never come back to a role before," Kuhn told Playbill magazine, "so it's going to be an interesting journey. There are obviously things that I learned the first time that I want to hang on to, but I want to come to this completely new and start the process over again. John Doyle is a very different director than Eric Schaeffer was. I'm also ten years older, ten years more experienced — hopefully, ten years more skilled and wiser. I can bring a lot of new things to it — things you hadn't noticed before."
She added, "There are so many mysteries about her — about what ails her, about the nature of her behavior and what motivates it. I think what's interesting about her is that her impulses and needs and desires are very universal. All of us can recognize ourselves in her. She is desperately isolated and lonely, and I think those are all things that people can really empathize with."
CSC is at 136 E. 13th Street. Tickets are $75 on Tuesday through Thursdays (select sides at $60) and $80 Friday through Sunday (select sides at $65).
Passion plays Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7 PM; Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM; Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM; and Sundays at 3 PM. Passion will also have Wednesday matinees at 3 PM March 6 & 27 and April 3.
For tickets, visit classicstage.org or call (212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111.