Lyricist/librettist Tom Jones has returned to the N.Y. college that hosted the initial production of his legendary 1960 hit, The Fantasticks, to help students revise his "experimental" 1969 musical, Celebration.
Jones has offered script cuts and revisions to his ritualistic fable of the battle between old and young, winter and spring, which ran just three months and was his last Broadway show to date. Like The Fantasticks, Celebration has music by Harvey Schmidt.
Celebration is being revived May 2 and 3, 1998 by the Columbia University/Barnard College Musical Theatre company at the Raw Space on New York's Theatre Row. Now in its 38th year at the Sullivan Street Playhouse, The Fantasticks was first staged as a one-act under the auspices of Barnard College in summer 1959 at Barnard's uptown campus.
Nearly a decade later, on Jan. 22, 1969, Jones & Schmidt premiered their "experimental" musical, Celebration, at Broadway's Ambassador Theatre.
The most crucial musical change comes in the song, "Under The Tree", originally sung by Angel (the show's ingenue) and the Animals. In this production, Jones has Angel and the male ingenue, Orphan, singing the song together. Director Mark Edmonds, said this is part of the strengthening of Orphan, the show's central character. With cuts in the part of Potemkin, the mysterious narrator (played by a woman in this production), including the final speech, Edmonds feels Jones has made Orphan stronger than Potemkin, resulting in a real confrontation between the two characters. Rich, the representation of winter and old age, has also been altered with dialogue cuts, making him more realistic.
"He really crumbles. His downfall is much more realistic. . . a lot less prosy, less metaphorical," Edmonds said.
Some minor alterations include cutting transitional musical scenes like the brief number sung by the machines, Potemkin and Orphan between "Not My Problem" and "50 Million Years Ago".
Edmonds has been implementing these changes and adds that the ending is still not satisfactory to Jones. According to Edmonds (April 24), a few more changes may be inserted the week before the opening.
The cast features Zehra Abdi (Angel), Rob Esris (Rich), Jon Ferrantelli (Orphan), and Lynnette Marrero (Potemkin) with Jeremy Bennington, Marissa Berman, Nili Birke, Kevin Collins, Tiffany Dixon, Nuria Ferrer, Sara Jimenez, Samm Johnson, Jennifer Kidwell, Rachale Miller, Brian Murphy, Julia Sitarz, Lawrence Street, Vasantha Rao and Hannah Warren.
The staff also features Abdi (executive producer), Kerry Long (production stage manager), T.J. Perlick-Molinari (musical director), Matt Kovich (associate musical director), Marisa Aquino (choreographer), De Wayne Kirchner (costume design), Kenneth Fink (lighting design), Thomas Wagstaff (set design), Ben Cho (make-up design), James Edmonds (stain glass design), and Adam Smith (stained-glass artist).
Celebration will play 4 performances May 2 and 3, at 2 PM and 8 PM. A special question and answer session with Jones and Schmidt will follow the Saturday evening performance. Their Off-Broadway York Theatre revue, The Song Goes On, was extended twice after a well-reviewed opening earlier this season.
Tickets are $3 with a student ID, $5 without. Donations are accepted. Reservations can be made by calling (212) 502-0846 or by e-mailing CU-BCMT CELEBRATION@juno.com. The Raw Space is located at 529 W. 42nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenue.
-- By Christine Ehren