From Russia With Music: Zhivago Musical Adaptation Begins in La Jolla

News   From Russia With Music: Zhivago Musical Adaptation Begins in La Jolla
Zhivago, the musical adaptation of the Russian-set love story, begins its workshop production starring Chris Hoch, Jessica Burrows, Rena Strober and Tony Award winner Anthony Crivello at the La Jolla Playhouse, July 26.

La Jolla artistic director Des McAnuff (700 Sundays) stages the work which will run through Aug. 21 at the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre as the California company's first musical to develop from the Page to Stage new play development program.

Based on the famous 1958 Nobel Prize-winning novel by Russian author Boris Pasternak (who was forced, at the time, to decline the literary prize by the government), Zhivago is set against the backdrop of the snowy country before and after the Russian Revolution. The work was later adapted for the screen for the 1965 film starring Omar Shariff as the surgeon-poet Yurii Zhivago and Julie Christie as his muse Lara.

The new work combines the talents of bookwriter Michael Weller (Moonchildren, Loose Ends), composer Lucy Simon (The Secret Garden) and lyricists Michael Korie (Doll - Ravinia Festival) and Amy Powers (Lizzie Borden). Kelly Devine (Private Fittings) handles choreography while Eric Stern (Once Upon a Mattress) provides incidental musical, vocal and instrumental arrangements.

Chris Hoch (Dracula, Beauty and the Beast) stars as the title character of Zhivago opposite Rena Strober (Les Miserables, My Life with Albertine) as his wife Tonya and Jessica Burrows (The Ten Commandments, La Boheme - Ahmanson Theatre) as his love Lara. Tony Award winner Anthony Crivello (Kiss of the Spider Woman) is also featured in the cast that includes Brooks Almy, Dominic Bogart, Ron Butler (Merrily We Roll Along), Christopher Eid, Heather Ferguson, Jason Heil, David McDonald (Les Miserables, Lucky Duck), David Rossmer (Fiddler on the Roof, Titanic), Kelsey L. Smith, Mark E. Smith, Nic Ullet (Me and My Girl) and Bibi Valderrama.

Fight Direction is by Steve Rankin. Eva Wielgat Barnes serves as dialect coach. Allison Horsley provides dramaturgy. Production stage manager is Lori M. Doyle with Heather Fields as stage manager. The design team for Zhivago features David F. Weiner (scenic), Emily Pepper (costume), Howell Binkley (lighting) with Walter Trarbach and Anthony Smolenski (sound). The four-year-old Page To Stage programs earned its second Tony Award win this past Broadway season when Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays — a 2004 Page To Stage Production — earned the 2005 Special Theatrical Event Tony. The initiative's previous Tony winner (for Best Play) was Doug Wright's I Am My Own Wife — which also garnered the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony for its leading actor Jefferson Mays. The program offers a safe haven for development as the works "are not open to review by a critical audience."

La Jolla Playhouse is located on the corner of La Jolla Village Drive and Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla, CA. For tickets and more information on the company, visit

Anthony Crivello (left) and director Des McAnuff in rehearsal for <i>Zhivago</i>
Anthony Crivello (left) and director Des McAnuff in rehearsal for Zhivago Photo by J.T. MacMillan
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