Pirates!, Revised for St. Louis Muny, To Star Ed Dixon, Hunter Foster, Kathy Fitzgerald, Jay Armstrong Johnson, Analisa Leaming
By Kenneth Jones
Tony Award nominee Hunter Foster will play The Pirate King in The Muny production of Pirates! (Or, Gilbert & Sullivan Plunder'd) in St. Louis. His principal-cast comrades for this daffy reinvention of the British comic operetta The Pirates of Penzance include Broadway veteran Ed Dixon as General Stanley and Kathy Fitzgerald as Ruth.
Alan Mingo Jr. will play The Sergeant, Analisa Leaming is Mabel and Jay Armstrong Johnson is Frederic.
Directed by Gordon Greenberg and choreographed by Denis Jones, the musical comedy — spiced with Caribbean flavor, and now with a new opening sequence since earlier regional productions — will play the outdoor venue in St. Louis' Forest Park July 30-Aug. 5. The show has been developed at regional theatres (Goodspeed Musicals, Paper Mill Playhouse), with an eye toward a Broadway life. (The Public Theater's The Pirates of Penzance was a Broadway hit back in 1980-82.)
Pirates! (or, Gilbert and Sullivan Plunder'd) is conceived by Gordon Greenburg, Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde) and John McDaniel (the orchestrater, arranger and conductor attached to a number of Broadway musicals, including Bonnie & Clyde, Taboo, Catch Me If You Can, Annie Get Your Gun and more).
It features lyrics by W.S. Gilbert and music by Arthur Sullivan. Revised book and lyrics are by Benjamin. Music supervision, new arrangements and orchestrations are by McDaniel.
Muny executive producer Mike Isaacson said in a statement, "Gordon, Nell and John have given Gilbert & Sullivan's classic a delicious new sheen, and we've got a dream cast. We're proud to be a part of the development of this exciting new show."
Playbill reached out to director Greenberg (Band Geeks, Working, Yentl), who added, "Our producer, Mike Isaacson, wanted us to focus on reworking the first 20 minutes of the show — to establish the language of this extreme (and extremely silly) revision of the show. So Nell Benjamin, our brilliant writer — and John McDaniel, our equally brilliant arranger — have created two new numbers to kick off the show in highly comic, Caribbean and raucous fashion. We've added new characters — and rewritten existing characters — inspired by our extraordinary cast. And the fact that it's 103 degrees in the shade certainly helps with verisimilitude. This show gets more and more fun every time we do it!"
The Muny production's creative team includes scenic designer Rob Bissinger (his work is adapted for The Muny by Steve Gilliam), sound designer Jason Krueger, lighting designer Seth Jackson, costume designers David Woolard and Robin McGee, musical director Ben Whiteley and production stage manager is Harold Goldfadden.
Foster's Broadway credits include Million Dollar Quartet, The Producers, Little Shop of Horrors (Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critic nominations), Urinetown (Outer Critic nomination), Les Misérables, Grease, Footloose and King David.
Dixon recently published his show biz memoir "Secrets of a Life On Stage…And Off." His Broadway credits include Anything Goes; Mary Poppins; Sunday in the Park with George; How the Grinch Stole Christmas; Gore Vidal's The Best Man; The Iceman Cometh; The Scarlet Pimpernel; Les Misérables; Cyrano; The Three Musketeers; King of Schnorrers; No, No, Nanette and Bernstein's Mass. He is also a librettist and composer (Cather County, Richard Cory, Fanny Hill, Whodunit…The Musical and Cloak and Dagger).
Fitzgerald's Broadway credits include Wicked, 9 to 5: The Musical, the original company of Mel Brooks' The Producers (Shirley Markowitz) and Swinging on a Star.
Mingo played Donkey in Dreamworks' first national tour of Shrek the Musical, and performed in The Little Mermaid and Rent on Broadway.
Leaming, making her Muny debut, appeared in Pipe Dream and Where's Charley? in the City Center Encores! series.
Johnson was in Broadway's Catch Me If You Can (Frank Abagnate Jr. standby), Hair (Claude u/s) and Off-Broadway's Wild Animals You Should Know (MCC), plus regional productions of Hands On a Hardbody, Pool Boy, Hairspray and more.
For tickets and more information about The Muny, visit muny.org.
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