Directors and Choreographers Announced for City Center Encores! 20th Anniversary Season
By Andrew Gans
Jack Viertel, artistic director of New York City Center’s Encores! series, has announced the directors and choreographers of the Encores! 20th Anniversary season, which kicks off Jan. 30 with Fiorello!
The Tony Award-winning series will welcome back directors Gary Griffin, John Rando and Warren Carlyle, choreographers Alex Sanchez and Joshua Bergasse, and guest music director Rob Fisher.
Bock and Harnick’s Fiorello!, which runs through Feb. 3, will be directed by Gary Griffin with choreography by Alex Sanchez and music direction by Rob Berman.
The season will continue with Strouse and Adams' It’s a Bird...It's a Plane...It's Superman (March 20-24), directed by John Rando with choreography by Joshua Bergasse and music direction by Rob Berman.
￼￼￼￼￼￼Rodgers and Hart’s On Your Toes, which will run May 8-12, will be directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle with music direction by Rob Fisher.
Encores! subscriptions and single tickets can be purchased at the New York City Center Box Office (West 55th Street between 6th and 7th avenues), through CityTix® at (212) 581-1212, or online at www.NYCityCenter.org. Tickets start at $25.
Fiorello!, the 1959 biographical musical about New York City Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia, who was responsible for the creation of City Center, launches the 20th season of the influential organization that has given life to forgotten, overshadowed, rarely performed or underappreciated American musical scores from the past. Several Encores!-originated concerts later blossomed into full Broadway productions (Chicago, Wonderful Town and Finian's Rainbow).
Jerry Zaks, the actor now better known as a director, starred as the "Little Flower" in the original 1994 Encores! concert, taking on a role created by Tom Bosley (Walter Bobbie, who later won the Tony for directing Chicago, staged that first concert). Fiorello! — about "LaGuardia's rise from an immigrant's son to feisty congressmen whose guts and determination to fight corruption brought down the crooked Tammany Hall political machine" — has a score by Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) and Jerry Bock (music) and a book by Jerome Weidman and George Abbott. The show that viewed politics with a jaundiced eye (exemplified by the song "Little Tin Box") and a sentimental heart ("Till Tomorrow," "When Did I Fall in Love?") won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award as Best Musical.
In a previous statement, Arlene Shuler, president and CEO of City Center, said that Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was "the man singularly responsible for saving City Center from the wrecking ball, and transforming it into Manhattan's first Performing Arts Center. It was the perfect show to launch the Encores! series in 1994 and a fitting way to celebrate our 20th Anniversary season in our beautifully restored theatre."
The 1966 satiric musical comedy It's a Bird…It's a Plane…It's Superman, with a score by Charles Strouse (music) and Lee Adams (lyrics), follows. Although there have been recent revisions to the script and score (and a regional production in 2010), artistic director Viertel told Playbill.com that the idea of Encores! is to present the original versions of properties, though there are always discussions with artistic teams and estates about changes or new versions. (Merrily We Roll Along, presented by Encores!, for example, used a revised version of the show, not its 1981 script and score.) The Encores! tradition has been to "adapt" the books of shows, paring scripts down to bare storytelling.
It's a Bird…It's a Plane…It's Superman, which flirts with a contemporary '60s sound ("It's Super Nice," "It's Superman") while indulging in musical comedy pastiche ("So, Long Big Guy," "You've Got What I Need"), includes the breakout song "You've Got Possibilities," first introduced by Linda Lavin.
The show, based on the comic-book hero, has a libretto by David Newman and Robert Benton, who would later co-write the screenplay for the 1978 movie "Superman" starring Christopher Reeve. The original production was directed by Harold Prince.
On Your Toes, the 1936 musical that gave the world the standards "It's Got to Be Love," "Quiet Night," "There's a Small Hotel," "Glad To Be Unhappy" and the title tune, will conclude the season. It has a book by George Abbott, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart; music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Lorenz Hart. The original production was choreographed by George Balanchine and included two ballets — "La Princess Zenobia Ballet" and the famous "jazz ballet" called "Slaughter On Tenth Avenue." Viertel said On Your Toes is expected to be one of the most dance-heavy shows in the history of Encores! (choreography details will be announced).
Encores! bills the show as "an improbable mix of gangsters, vaudeville and classical ballet, and was the first musical to successfully integrate classical dance into the Broadway musical format." In 1983, Abbott himself staged a Broadway revival of the work, retaining the show's original style, choreography and orchestrations (by Hans Spialek). It won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. A cast album and national tour followed.
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