Warren and Schaffel Sing "First Draft" of New Musical, Wallenberg, March 29

News   Warren and Schaffel Sing "First Draft" of New Musical, Wallenberg, March 29
First Draft Musicals, a new series of staged readings of new musicals, will be launched March 29 with Wallenberg, at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space in Manhattan.

The new initiative was formed by the creators of the New Voices Collective, which promotes American song concerts and other music events at Symphony Space.

Wallenberg, about the famed Swede who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust, has book and lyrics by ASCAP Award-winning team Laurence Holzman and Felicia Needleman and music by composer Benjamin Rosenbluth.

"In July 1944, 34-year-old Raoul Wallenberg, an ordinary Swedish citizen, went to Nazi-occupied Hungary and in a six-month stay there managed to save an estimated 100,000 Jews, more than were rescued by any other individual, organization or government during the entire Holocaust," according to the announcement. "This musical tells the story of his heroic accomplishments in Budapest."

Annette Jolles will direct the 7 PM presentation, with a cast of 21. Thom Christopher Warren (The Lion King, Once Upon a Mattress) is featured as the heroic Wallenberg, with Tony Award nominee Marla Schaffel (Jane Eyre, Titanic) as the young Baroness Elisabeth Kemeny, who worked with him on his mission.  Also in the cast are Graham Rowat as the Baron Kemeny; Bobby Creighton as Vilmos Langselder; Colby Foytik as Per Anger, the Swedish diplomat stationed in Budapest; Michael Greenwood as the notorious Adolf Eichmann; and theatre veterans Alice Evans, Hal Davis and Matt Landers.

"The musical follows Raoul Wallenberg from his decision to take on a mission to rescue the last remaining Jewish community in Europe through his mysterious disappearance in January 1945," according to the announcement. "The show explores his relationships with the Baroness Kemeny, Eichmann and Wallenberg's comrades at the Swedish Legation, and focuses on his remarkable efforts to save the Hungarian Jews.  Remaining quite faithful to history, the authors convey in drama and song Wallenberg's innovation of the schutzpass, a fake Swedish I.D. which he issued to thousands of Jews and which managed to fool the Nazis, as well as his bold and daring face-off with Eichmann at a train station, where he literally pulled Jews off the cattle cars and claimed them as Swedish citizens.  The musical ends at  Wallenberg's disappearance at the hands of the Russians, offering audiences the full range of speculation about the mysterious fate of this incredible man." Writers Holzman and Needleman's previous collaborations include Suddenly Hope (Denver Civic Theater, Garfield Theater, La Jolla, CA, and Stamford Center for the Arts), That Time of the Year, an original holiday musical revue (cast recording on Marquis4 Records), and I Married a Witch (ASCAP Sammy Cahn Award for Outstanding Lyricists).

Composer Rosenbluth's music has been performed at Lincoln Center, The Juilliard School, the 14th Street Y and in productions directed by Christopher Durang and John Rando.  A staged reading of his show, Masada (with book and lyrics by Michael Aman and Oscar E. Moore) was presented at the York Theatre in July 2003.

Director Annette Jolles' previous collaborations with Holzman and Needleman include Suddenly Hope and That Time of the Year.  Other credits include Little by Little (New York and regional premieres), resident director-choreographer for The Little Orchestra Society, and television work.

According to the mission, "NVC's First Draft Musicals series provides an opportunity for writers to present readings of musicals in their early stages of development. The purpose of the series is to focus on the book, music, and lyrics before other elements of production are considered. The readings also provide an opportunity for the writers to hear valuable feedback directly from their audience."

The New Voices Collective, founded by Jen Bender, Joel Fram, and Doug Okerson in 2002, "provides a forum for a community of artists to develop new works and explore new directions." Its various programs includes the New Voices concerts, First-Draft Musicals readings, and the Rush Hour Chamber Music series.

Admission is free. General admission tickets are available by phone at (212) 864-5400; online at www.symphonyspace.org (just type Wallenberg into the search engine); or at the box office. Symphony Space is located at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street.

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