The BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, one of the country's major nonprofit crucibles of songwriting craft for the musical theatre, will hold two rare, invite-only cabarets April 15 featuring recent or upcoming work by workshop veterans including Susan Birkenhead, Clark Gesner, Patrick Cook and Frederick Freyer, among others.
The workshop, established by the late conductor and musical theatre teacher Lehman Engel, has provided a free matchmaking service for composers and lyricists, but also a place for songwriters to develop their craft through writing exercises and critiques. Vets include Maury Yeston (now an instructor there), Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens, Alan Menken and others.
Among those expected at the "Musical Theatre Theatrical," held at BMI's New York City headquarters on 57th Street:
* Judd Woldin, composer-lyricist of Raisin, the Tony Award-winner for Best Musical, will perform work from his new musical, Jonah.
* Susan Birkenhead, lyricist and multi-Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk Award Winner for Jelly's Last Jam, has asked Alix Korey to perform "Serenity" from last season's Triumph of Love. Korey was Betty Buckley's standby. Birkenhead's contribution to Cole Porter's High Society will be heard on the 1998 show's cast album, to be released April 20.
* Clark Gesner, who wrote music and lyrics for the Off-Broadway and Broadway musical, You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, currently at the Ambassador Theatre on Broadway, will perform YAGMCB's "Happiness," plus the 11 o'clock number, "Moon Goddess," from the new comic play-with-music, Bongo Fever, which opens April 14 at the Grove Street Playhouse.
* Doug Katsaros, musical supervisor for Footloose and a cast member of the new Cy Coleman musical, Exactly Like You, has collaborated with Richard Engquist (Kuni-Leml), Ron Sproat and Frank Evans on the four-character musical comedy, Abie's Island Rose. Evans will sing from their Caribbean version of Abie's Irish Rose.
* Evans will also be represented with work from Dinner at Eight, the musical adaptation of the George S. Kaufman-Edna Ferber classic, with book by Julie Gilbert (Ferber's great niece) and music by Ben Schaechter. Andy Gale (Side Show) will sing "Ever So Young," sung by the Lionel Barrymore character of the film.
* Gary William Friedman, Tony nominee for The Me Nobody Knows will be showcasing work from his current Last Supper as well as his free-wheeling adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, appropriately titled Dream.
* Composer-lyricist David Spencer (New York Shakespeare Festival's La Boheme, WPA's Weird Romance and Phantom) has invited the cast from his TheatreWorks/USA production to perform selections from his musical version of Les Miserables.
* Georgia Holof and David Metee, best known for the Obie-winning A...My Name Is Alice, will showcase work from their adaptation of Paul Monette's novel, "Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll."
* Patrick Cook and Frederick Freyer, fresh from their Manhattan Theatre Club Production of Captains Courageous will offer a glimpse at their new musical, 97 Orchard Street, about the lives of immigrants in New York at the turn of the century.
* Annette Leisten and Shelly Markham will be presenting work from Forge Of Freedom, which traces the history of the American colonies becoming a nation during the Revolutionary War. Markham and Leisten are the composer-lyricist team responsible for helping establish the National Theatre Company headed by Fran and Barry Weissler. The team wrote seven musicals for the Weisslers which toured for 15 seasons. Markham will also perform work from his collaboration with poet Judith Viorst, Love and Shrimp.
The 6 & 8 PM "Theatricals" are being produced for BMI by composer Gary William Friedman and lyricist Frank Evans. The evening begins with a specially-written number, "This is the Room," a reference to the lecture and performance room where would-be musical theatre writers work their craft, free of charge.
BMI stands for Broadcast Music Inc. Along with ASCAP, it is one of the country's major performing rights organization, protecting and ensuring compensation of songwriters's work.
Some seats are still available for interested industry people, according to Evans. For further information, contact Jean Banks, Senior Director of Musical Theatre, at (212) 830-2508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- By Kenneth Jones