Baz Luhrmann's production of La Bohème ends its tryout run at San Francisco's Curran Theatre Nov. 10 on a high note, and not just Puccini's.
The Curran run of the classic opera was sold out three days after it earned enthusiastic reviews there, and sold about $300,000 in tickets the day the reviews appeared, a source confirmed.
Performances began Oct. 1 at the Curran and included the kinds of glitches that come with new productions — the set changes were taking longer than director Luhrmann wanted, so he made curtain speeches during some of the shows to let the audience know the work was still forming.
No advance box office figures are available to the press for the Broadway run that begins previews Nov. 29 at the Broadway Theatre, but observers say sales could explode once word of mouth spreads about Luhrmann and designer Catherine Martin's sensual work (they teamed on the Oscar-nominated musical film, "Moulin Rouge"). Their hip, young retelling of La Bohème was a smash in Australia in the 1990s.
The 1896 opera is being re-set from early 19th-century Paris to the Paris of 1957. The production is sung in Italian, with English supertitles. It opens on Broadway Dec. 8. On Oct. 15, the company of La Bohème celebrated the opening night of its pre-Broadway U.S. premiere in California, and shortly after began recording the cast album (expected on shelves Dec. 10). David Miller and Ekaterina Solovyeva played lovers Rodolfo and Mimi Oct. 15, and rotated throughout the run with two other lean, sexy, young couples. The multiple casting is necessary due to the show's vocal demands. As of Nov. 8, the exact performance schedule for Broadway had not been announced, but theatregoers will eventually be able to pick and choose their casts (despite the starless marquee). Lovers Mimi and Rodolfo were played by Russian soprano Ekaterina Solovyeva and American tenor David Miller for the first performance at the Curran (Oct. 1), and traded off with Lisa Hopkins and Jesus Garcia, and Wei Huang and Alfred Boe during the run.
No couple will perform more than three shows per week, though live theatre being what it is, the couples who rehearsed together and who appear in the print ads together may occasionally be broken up due to sickness or other circumstances (you can only imagine what couple might appear in the event of a nasty head cold, a blinding snow storm and halted public transportation some mid winter's night; that's when observers say theatre gets really exciting).
The roles of Marcello and Musetta are also double-cast and will rotate, with no performer playing more than four shows per week. Expect Jessica Comeau and Eugene Brancoveanu or Chloe Wright and Ben Davis.
The director and designer, married off-stage, seek to capture the romantic haze of Paris in the 1950s — the same world captured by the lens of photographer Robert Doisneau, whose subjects kissed rapturously on Paris streets.
In San Francisco and on Broadway, director Luhrmann and designer Martin (the set deisgner and co-designer of costumes, with Angus Strathie) create a stylized world complete with stark blacks, white and grays, splashes of color and a passerelle — a ramp that wraps around the orchestra pit. The orchestra is reduced to 26 from the larger number that would be heard in an opera house and includes an electronic keyboard. In another break from the opera tradition, the orchestra and singers are amplified, according to newspaper reports.
The directorial conceit of the show includes the audience seeing the mechanics of the set change.
It has not yet been announced who will appear in the roles for the Broadway opening night, which is the performance that determines who is eligible for Tony Awards.
Joining the previously announced six international actors are Daniel Webb as Colline, Daniel Okulitch as Schaunard, William Youmans as Alcindoro and Adam Grupper as Benoit. The ensemble of La Bohème comprises Enrique Abdala, Christine Arand, Janinah Burnett, Gilles Chiasson, Charlotte Cohn, Michael Cone, Vanessa Conlin, Sean Cooper, Patricia Corbett, Evangelia Costantakos, Lawrence Craig, Dan Entriken, Graham Fandrei, Bobby Faust, Katie Geissinger, Jennifer Goode, Paul Goodwin Groen, Joy Hermalyn, Robb Hillman, Adam Hunter, Tim Jerome, Katherine Keyes, Laurice Lanier, Morgan Moody Marcus Nance, Daniel Neer, Debra Patchell Patricia Phillips, Jamet Pittman, Martin Sola, Radu Spinghel, David Steinberg, and Mark Womack. The production will also feature an ensemble cast of 16 children.
The Bohème cast numbers 50, and the performers are members of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) rather than Actors' Equity, which represents most Broadway actors.
Musical director Constantine Kitsopoulos conduct the orchestra. The opera has a legendary score by Giacomo Puccini — even those who avoid opera will recognize "Musetta's Waltz," if only from its interpolations in movies — and was first seen in 1896. Reviews were not good 100 years agom, but the score outlived the critics. Luhrmann's La Bohème premiered in 1990, and became the biggest hit in the history of the Sydney Opera House and a sold-out sensation. It played return engagements at the Sydney Opera House in 1993, when it was recorded for video, and in 1996.
The doomed love affair between seamstress Mimi and the artist Rodolfo is set against the world of bohemian Paris in 1957.
The design staff includes "Moulin Rouge" Academy Award winners Catherine Martin (scenic design and co-costume design) and Angus Strathie (co-costume design), with Nigel Levings (lighting design) and Acme Sound Partners (sound design).
Onetime actor Luhrmann is internationally known for directing the films "Strictly Ballroom" (which he began as a play), "Romeo + Juliet" and the Academy Award nominated "Moulin Rouge." He has worked in film, opera, theatre, music and events management. With Martin he is the founder and director of Bazmark. In 1988, he created the critically acclaimed opera, Lake Lost, with composer Felix Meagher, where he first collaborated with designer Catherine Martin.
For ticket information about the run at the Broadway Theatre, call (212) 239-6200. The Broadway Theatre is at Broadway and 53rd Street.