Stephen Spinella, Alice Ripley and Daisy Eagan will be haunted by the memory of those who have passed when Playwrights Horizons presents the new musical, The Dead, by composer-lyricist Shaun Davey and lyricist-librettist Richard Nelson, tentatively scheduled to begin previews Oct. 1.
Spinella is a veteran of Angels in America, Ripley may be best known as one of the conjoined twins of Broadway's cult musical, Side Show, and Eagan won a Tony Award for the her portrayal of the dour Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. Jack Hofsiss (The Elephant Man) will direct.
Gregory Mosher and Arielle Tepper had hoped to produce a musicalization of James Joyce's story, "The Dead," on Broadway last season, but the planning came too late in the season to raise the necessary funding ($3 million at that point).
Mosher has kept the project "very much alive" since then, he told Playbill On-Line (June 10). A Playwrights Horizons spokesperson confirmed the casting of Spinella, Ripley and Eagan. Further casting has not been announced. Back in February, Mosher and Tepper tried to bring The Dead to Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre (where Parade closed Feb. 28), but it was too much, too soon.
Mentioned for that cast were Patti LuPone, whose interest in the seemingly non-commercial project started the push for Broadway, Eileen Brennan, Sally Ann Howes, Eagan and John Kelly.
Playwright Nelson has written Two Shakespearean Actors, Some Americans Abroad, New England and Goodnight Children Everywhere and the libretto of Chess,, among other plays.
"The Dead" is taken from Joyce's famous short story collection, "The Dubliners." The story takes place on a winter's evening in Dublin. Two elderly sisters are holding an annual holiday dance and dinner in their house. Among the guests are Gretta and Gabriel Conroy. A song sung at the gathering revives Gretta buried memories of a boy she loved as a teenager and who died young. As Gabriel listens to Gretta relate the tale of her early love, he realizes a man he never knew has had a hold on his wife's imagination for years. Gabriel grapples with the revelation that the dead - even the unknown dead -- never release their hold on the living.
The story was turned into a film in 1987, starring Angelica Huston and Donal McCann, under the direction of John Huston (the film was Huston's last). As in the film, the theatre piece will feature singing and dancing, though Mosher is reluctant to call The Dead a musical. For now, he refers to it as a "play with music." Shaun Davey, an Irish musician, has composed a dozen songs for the show. In one number, Gretta tells the story of her lost love. The final song of the evening maps the course of Joyce's story's famous last paragraph.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz and Robert Simonson