Jeremy Kushnier will kick off his Footloose shoes to star in The Rhythm Club, the new Broadway-bound musical about German youth celebrating American swing culture in the face of the Nazi regime.
Tentative Broadway dates are Jan. 26, 2001 (first preview) and Feb. 15, 2001 (opening), at a theatre yet to be announced, according to a spokesman.
The musical by award winners Chad Beguelin (book and lyrics) and Matthew Sklar (music) will play a tryout at the Ford Center Oriental Theatre in Chicago Dec. 9-Jan. 7, 2001, following an August 2000 debut at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA.
The nonprofit Signature staging, helmed by artistic director Eric Schaeffer, plays Aug. 29-Oct. 15. Schaeffer will take the show to Broadway, as well.
Allan and Beth Williams produce the new tuner. Complete major casting was announced on the show's web site (www.therhythmclub.com). The casting was also announced in Chicago the week of June 19. Kushnier is top-billed (as Jake) with Lauren Kennedy (as Petra) and Tim Martin Gleason (as Adam) in this tale of three young people whose friendship and passions are tested by their love of swing music in hard times. Beguelin and Sklar set their show in Hamburg, Germany, in 1938. Kushnier and Gleason play musicians, one Christian and one Jewish, fight for their right to express themselves in time when Nazis where cracking down on Jews, artists and others. The boys hire a female singer, Petra, (who falls in love with Jewish Adam) in the hope for a ticket to New York and away from fascist oppression.
The cast also includes Florence Lacey (Evita, Hello, Dolly!), Jonathan Hogan (Burn This and other Lanford Wilson plays), Megan Lawrence, Larry Cahn, Kirk McDonald (Parade) and Barbara Walsh (Falsettos), Kevin Kern, Buzz Mauro and Marsh Hanson.
Winnipeg native Kushnier originated the role of Ren for the stage in Footloose, and covered the roles of Mark and Roger in the original Canadian company of Rent. Broadway's Footloose ends July 2, and Kushnier will go into summer rehearsals for The Rhythm Club.
Kennedy most recently appeared on Broadway as Daisy Hilton in Side Show, after making her Broadway debut in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard.
Gleason will make his Broadway debut with Rhythm Club. His regional credits include Tony in West Side Story, Tommy in The Who's Tommy, Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and creating the role of Romeo in Terrence Mann's rock opera, Romeo & Juliet at the Goodspeed Opera House.
Lawrence made her Broadway debut as an original cast member of the 10th anniversary company of Les Miserables, taking over the role of Eponine. She appeared in the world premiere of the new Kander and Ebb musical, Over and Over at Signature Theatre.
McDonald was Frankie Epps in Broadway's Parade and Armand in The Scarlet Pimpernel (3.0)
. Kern made his Broadway debut in Les Miserables.
Walsh appeared in Broadway's Big and Falsettos.
Lacey was last seen on Broadway in An Evening with Jerry Herman. Other Broadway credits include Eva in Evita, Fantine in Les Miserables, Marianne in The Grand Tour and Irene in Hello, Dolly!.
Cahn appeared on Broadway in Guys & Dolls, Epic Proportions and Anything Goes.
Hogan is the respected actor best known for such plays as Broadway's The Homecoming, Taking Steps, Burn This, As Is, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, Fifth of July and Otherwise Engaged. Off-Broadway, he appeared in Balm in Gilead, Getting Out, The Mound Builders, The Hot l Baltimore.
Mauro has appeared in many roles at Signature Theatre (Arlington, VA) including Bobby in Company and John Wilkes Booth in Assassins.
Hanson appeared on Broadway in Les Miserables and on tour as a Joseph standby in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Regionally, he was seen in the world premiere of Yip Harburg's America.
The collaborators are Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Foundation Award winners for the project and Beguelin has also won an Edward Kleban Award.
The cast is expected to number about 22.
Jodi Moccia will choreograph. Designers are Derek McLane (set), Natasha Katz (lighting), Gregg Barnes (costumes) and Tony Meola (sound). Don Sebesky handles orchestrations.
The Rhythm Club used to be called Swing Alley and was hoped-for in the 1999-2000 Signature season. Scheduling issues with Schaeffer (Putting It Together and the aborning Witches of Eastwick in London) prevented its January 2000 premiere.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz