Japanese audiences will experience A Class Act, the Tony Award-nominated Broadway musical about making musicals, July 12-28 at the Akasaka Act Theatre in Tokyo.
Much of the 2001 Broadway cast will reunite for the run, presented by Tokyo Broadcasting System/Kumiko Yoshii and directed by Lonny Price, who will also star in the leading role. There is hope that the show will be taped for broadcast, but details for that had not been worked out as of June 18, Price told Playbill On-Line. Rehearsals begin around July 1.
The fact-inspired musical focuses on Broadway songwriter Ed Kleban, with words and music by the late composer-lyricist. The book is by Price and Kleban's former love interest, Linda Kline. In its premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2000 and on Broadway in spring 2001, Price played the lead role of Kleban, who struggles with neuroses and anxiety as he writes hundreds of songs and yearns for Broadway success — which he only achieves writing Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning lyrics to Marvin Hamlisch's music for A Chorus Line. The show is a valentine to the people who make and love musicals.
Tokyo Broadcasting System and Kumiko Yoshii served as associate producers of the brief Broadway run. The Tokyo cast, performing in English, will mirror the Broadway cast, except for Randy Graff and Nancy Anderson. Their respective roles (Sophie and Mona) will be played by Michele Pawk (Seussical, Reefer Madness, Hollywood Arms) and Michelle Duffy. In Tokyo, expect Broadway cast members Jeff Blumenkrantz, David Hibbard, Sara Ramirez, Patrick Quinn and Donna Bullock to join Price, Pawk and Duffy.
On Broadway, A Class Act was Tony-nominated for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book of a Musical and Best Orchestrations (Larry Hochman), as well as Best Actress, Randy Graff. A cast album was released by RCA Victor. The score includes such Kleban trunk songs as "Paris Through the Window," "Say Something Funny," "Self Portrait," "Next Best Thing to Love," "Better," "Under Separate Cover," "Mona," "Light On My Feet" and more.
The musical made its West Coast premiere at The Pasadena Playhouse May 3-June 16. The libretto is published in the current summer issue of Show Music magazine.
Choreography is by Marguerite Derricks. The work of the Broadway designers James Noone (scenic), Carrie Robbins (costumes) and Kevin Adams (lighting) will be represented in Tokyo.
Kleban died at the age of 48 of cancer, in 1987. Linda Kline and Lonny Price went to work developing A Class Act in 1995, as a fictional version of the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, of which Kleban was a member and later a teacher. (Kleban himself had once tried to write about musical about the workshop, but it never materialized). Among the audience at the third reading of the show at Musical Theatre Works was producer Marty Bell, who would later co-present A Class Act on Broadway and is currently a producer of Sweet Smell of Success on Broadway.
"Marty made the bold suggestion that we turn our musical à clef into the true-life story of Ed Kleban, including Ed's part in writing A Chorus Line," Kline said. "Marty's voice boomed in our ears 'just tell the truth.' The truth of Ed's life lends itself to a fair share of laughter, tears, and life-affirming inspiration."
A Class Act will have one of its first major resident productions (minus input from the original Broadway team) May 14-June 22, 2003, at The Studio Theatre in Washington, DC. Serge Seiden will direct.