HOUSTON –- Take that, Julie Andrews!
Since the 1996-1997 season, Theatre Under The Stars had been promising that the musical theater legend would reprise her Victor/Victoria role(s) in an exclusive production for the Houston troupe and its sister organization, Fifth Avenue Musical Theatre Company in Seattle.
After numerous postponements, which cost much in credibility as well as economics, Andrews finally bowed out of her commitment last month, reportedly due to complications from throat surgery. Frank Young, president and CEO of the 30-year-old Theatre Under The Stars, and an impresario not to be taken lightly, vowed that the show would go on, some time, somehow.
Well, the some time and the somehow are coming. In what surely is a message to Andrews, as well as a good-will effort to ticket holders, Young has signed on a number of the original Broadway cast members to repeat their parts in the gender-bender farce of mistaken identity. Though the ostensible lead is Anthony (Stop the World, I Want to Get Off) Newley, who is playing Toddy, the charming ne'er-do-well, Michael Nouri reprises his Broadway role of King Marchan, the dashing gangster, while Tara O'Brien, who made her Broadway debut as the Street Singer in the show and moved into the role of Norma midway through the New York run, reemerges as Norma, King's jealous Chicago tootsie. As for the titular character(s), Young turns to Anne Runolfsson, who undertook Victor/Victoria when Andrews was ill and during matinees.
Andrews' husband, Blake Edwards, wrote and directed both the film version (1982) and the subsequent stage adaptation (1996, with music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, and additional music by Frank Wildhorn). He was supposed to direct his wife in the production for Theatre Under The Stars. No Andrews, no Edwards, of course. Instead, regional veteran Mark S. Hoebee will direct; what's interesting here is that he assisted Edwards on Broadway. In any case, this is the first post-Broadway staging of Victor/Victoria, and it serves as a fitting finale for Theater Under The Stars' longtime home, the Music Hall, which is being torn down at the end of May and being replaced with the $75 million Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, in 2001. In the interim, Theatre Under The Stars will have limited access to other venues as it produces full seasons out-of-pocket.
Victor/Victoria, presented by Theatre Under The Stars, plays the Music Hall May 10-30. For tickets, $22.50-$69.50, call (800) 678-5440