Nancy Anderson and Robert Ari have joined the cast of the upcoming Off Broadway production of Stephen Mo Hanan and Jay Berkow's Jolson & Company, which begins performances at the Century Center for the Performing Arts on Sept. 12.
A musical biography of the late entertainer Al Jolson, Jolson & Company casts Hanan, a Tony Award-nominated veteran of Cats, as the legendary entertainer of vaudeville, radio and screen. Co-star Anderson has appeared on Broadway in A Class Act and in the London production of Kiss Me, Kate; Ari has been seen in the Broadway companies of Bells Are Ringing and Laughter on the 23rd Floor. All three actors appeared in Jolson & Company's Nov. 23, 1999-Jan. 2, 2000 run at the York Theatre Company.
Opening night at the Century Center, which is located at 111 East 15th Street (between Union Square and Irving Place), is scheduled for Sept. 29. All tickets are priced at $65 and are available by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200. For more information, go to www.jolsonandcompany.com.
The frame of the show is a broadcast interview Jolson gave with Barry Gray at the Winter Garden Theatre in 1949. His life is explored in flashbacks. Jay Berkow directs, Peter Larson is musical director, James Morgan is set designer, Gail Baldoni handles costumes, Annmarie Duggan is lighting designer (all were attached to the previous York staging). The two-act Jolson tuner, a musical docudrama, explores the life of the legendary stage, film and radio star Al Jolson, arguably the most influential performer of the 20th century. Jolson's signature hits, "Rock a Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody," "You Made Me Love You," "California Here I Come," "Swanee," "Sonny Boy," "April Showers," "Toot Toot Tootsie, Goodbye," and more, are all part of the show.
The show is populated with 15 other characters from the turn of the century to Jolson's death in 1950. "For a small, intimate show it has a large scale feel because of the historical sweep and because of the size of the main attraction," Hanan told Playbill On-Line. He added that it is hoped Ari and Anderson will be part of the company, making for a York cast reunion.
Hanan has played Captain Hook opposite Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan. He earned a Best Featured Actor (Musical) Tony Award nomination for Growltiger/Asparagus in Broadway's Cats.
—By Andrew Gans and Kenneth Jones