New Musical, Ministry of Progress, to Take Off-Broadway Jane Street Theatre Feb. 17

News   New Musical, Ministry of Progress, to Take Off-Broadway Jane Street Theatre Feb. 17
Ministry of Progress, a new musical about "an ordinary man who does an extraordinary thing," will begin performances at Off-Broadway's Jane Street Theatre on Feb. 17, 2004. Obie-winner Kim Hughes directs the piece, which opens on March 4.

Terry Schnuck produces the show, which has a score of 15 original songs penned by seven different composers.

Hughes—who won praise and an Obie Award as the director and co-creator of the 1999 sleeper hit Sakina's Restaurant—developed the work from a one-act play she was handed in 1991. "Somebody said 'I know this play was made for you,'" Hughes told Playbill On-Line. It was by a dramatist named Wm. Charlie Morrow, who told Playbill On-Line that the work, at that jucture, represented several years of labor.

The piece began life as a radio play, Morrow said. It premiered on Thanksgiving Day of 1987 on New York City's WBAI-FM. (Morrow produced more than 40 radio plays for the station between 1982 and 1988.) Over the next two years, he transformed the script into a stage play, developing it at Doug and Diana Moston's Drama Project workshop. During this period, it was performed in venues including the Westbeth and Cooper Union, said Morrow.

After receiving permission from Morrow, Hughes staged a 40-minute version of the play to positive response. "After that, I knew it was much bigger than me," said Hughes. She soon drafted composers. Ministry eventually grew into a "play with music," running at the length of one hour and 40 minutes.

"It's about these characters that get stuck in a government office building. Dave, who works there, receives a driver's license that says he was born in Cracow, Poland, in 1921. So, he goes to the Ministry of Progress to find out his true identity." That first step leads Dave on a surreal journey of self-discovery. "I'm all about the American dream and living the American dream," explained Hughes. "We all have this dream inside of us. It just takes that one action to go get that dream."

Asked why she felt the need to turn the show into a musical, Hughes replied, "The story is so powerful that, at certain times, the actors just had to sing." A four-piece band will perform on stage and interact with the actors. Many of the scenic effects will be communicated through video projections.

The cast of six is headed by Jason Campbell as Dave. According to Hughes, she saw the actor on the street the week before auditions began and was struck by a feeling that he was the man to play the part. Also in the cast is Jennifer McCabe as Sylvia, the story's ingenue.

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