Kansas theatregoers have three more nights to catch the first musical of the first season of Stage One, a professional company devoted to the development of new musicals.
With book and lyrics by Mary Bracken Phillips and music by Jack Murphy, Silver Dollar was begun in 1992 as part of the New Harmony Project. This developmental process was strongly supported by composer Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin), leading to a workshop production at CT's Goodspeed at Chester in 1995. Hal Prince's Director's Company also provided a workshop staging, May 1996, but Stage One's mounting will be Silver Dollar's first full production. Phillips translated Polish lyrics into English for the 1992 Broadway musical Metro. Her libretto was nominated for the Tony Award that year.
The show tells the true story of Horace Tabor, a Colorado silver miner. Thanks to luck and his wife's business sense, he struck it rich. Unfortunately, he and his wife, Augusta, found themselves moving apart, Horace taking up with Baby Doe. He married the latter -- even though he never officially divorced the former.
Bracken-Phillips' musical centers on the characters of the two wives, Augusta and Baby Doe. "I wanted to show people that there was more to Baby Doe than her looks, and that Augusta's intelligence and intensity were often misunderstood for coldness." As for Baby Doe's vigil, "Okay, so her husband asked her to; big deal. In 23 years of marriage my husband asked me to do a lot of things, and some of them I carried out, but 30 years on top of a mountain? I don't think so."
Director Scott Schartz (Off-Broadway's No Way To Treat A Lady) sees the piece as a tale of "love lost and found...of redemption and the healing power of forgiveness. [Jack Murphy's] music is distintively American, a combination of country pop and the American Broadway musical." Daniel Stewart, who worked on No Way To Treat A Lady with Schwartz, will choreograph Silver Dollar, which stars Danette Cuming as Augusta and Jessica Phillips as Baby Doe. Dan Sharkey (of the Will Rogers Follies national tour) will play Horace. Also appearing are James Wright, Tim Robu, Karen Robu, Paul Jackson, Phil Speary, Chuck Parker, Scott Denney, Mike Nansel, Sarah Comley and Becca Ayers. Laura Bergquist serves as conductor and musical director.
Other Phillips musicals include Brimstone and Cradle Song (1989). She holds a musical theatre MFA from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Composer Murphy has collaborated with Frank Wildhorn and Linda Eder (on projects outside Jekyll & Hyde) and has written the lyrics for the upcoming CD, The Civil War Part One, featuring such vocalists as Eder, Betty Buckley, Carl Anderson and Hootie And The Blowfish.
Designers for Dollar are J. Branson (set), Sean Roberson (lighting), Pat Mueller (costumes) and Johnny Murphy (sound). Songs in the show include "America Calls," "Be Careful What You Wish For," "Closeness" and "Take The Money And Run."
Founded in June 1996 by producing director Kathryn Page-Hauptman and musical director Bergquist, Stage One uses both local and national actors in its mission to "develop new plays, playwrights, composers and lyricists." Performances take place at the Mary Jane Teall Theatre in the Performing Arts Center of Downtown Wichita. Page-Hauptman told Playbill On-Line "a couple of East Coast theatres are looking at the production," and a major regional theatre is expected to be present as well. Once the Stage One production ends, the authors will also make some revisions to the second act.
Other projects by Stage One include Community Outreach and "Words And Music By..." a seminar modeled after NY's "Lyrics & Lyricists" events at the 92nd Street Y. This year's series will feature the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Rodgers & Hammerstein, the Gershwins, and 1996-97's Tony nominees.
For tickets and information on Silver Dollar, which opened March 21 and runs to March 29, call (316) 262-5330.
--By David Lefkowitz