Reimagined Pal Joey, With Clifton Oliver, Erica Hanrahan-Ball, Stephanie Umoh and More, Begins Sept. 4
By Michael Gioia
Clifton Oliver, Erica Hanrahan-Ball, Jonas Cohen, Stephanie Umoh and Danielle Erin Rhodes lead the cast of a reconceived version of the Rodgers and Hart 1940 classic Pal Joey, which begins performances Sept. 4 at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.
Pal Joey, which has music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Lorenz Hart, features a new book by journalist Patrick Pacheco, based on the original book by John O'Hara. Musical supervision and arrangements are by Michael Reno. Choreography is by Dan Knechtges.
The new score has been enhanced with other songs from the Rodgers and Hart catalog, including "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Sing for Your Supper" and "Glad To Be Unhappy," intermingled with tunes from the original 1940 show such as "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" and "I Could Write a Book." Also included is the song "What is a Man?"
The creative team has updated the show to 1948 and made the character of Joey African-American. Within Joey's love triangle, Vera is white, and Linda is black. Additionally, the trio has "further upped the ante by introducing a white male pianist into the club who also falls in love with Joey."
Oliver plays Joey, with Hanrahan-Ball as Vera, Cohen as Ted, Umoh as Linda and Rhodes as Gladys. The cast also features Elise Kinnon, Jordy Lievers, Matthew K. Tatus, Ian Jordan Subsara, Joel Pellini, Jeffrey Johnson II and Michael Reno.
Following a concert reading at Pasadena's Boston Court Theatre in 2012, director Peter Schneider was encouraged by the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization to move forward with a fully realized production.
Here's how it's billed: "It's 1948, and post-war America is booming. President Harry Truman has integrated the armed forces. Jackie Robinson has smashed pro baseball's color barrier. And Joe Louis is the World Heavyweight Champ. Joey, an ambitious young African-American entertainer, enters Mike's looking for a job. And Ted, the jazz-loving pianist in the Chicago nightclub, has a feeling he's going to shake things up. And shake them up he does. Joey's heart belongs to nobody. But more than a few try to corral his affections, including Vera, a rich white socialite, and Linda, an African-American working girl. And when Joey finally realizes his dream, he begins to realize just how steep is the cost."
Performances continue through Sept. 29.
Schneider also produced the award-winning documentary "Waking Sleeping Beauty," about Disney animation from 1984–94, and served as president of animation and chairman of the studio for the Walt Disney Company for 17 years.
The Rep's ambitious season also includes the premiere of the new Duncan Sheik-Nell Benjamin musical Because of Winn Dixie, under the direction of John Tartaglia.
Arkansas Repertory Theatre is located at 601 Main Street in Little Rock, AR. For more information, visit TheRep.org.
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