Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake City, UT, will launch its 2007-08 season with the 1951 musical set in the Gold Rush American West. Performances under the direction of PTC artistic director Charles Morey will run Sept. 28-Oct. 13.
Hall (who appeared in Follies on Broadway in 2001) will play tomboy Jennifer Rumson, whose father, Ben, played by Dennis Parlato, is a prospector. There's trouble in the mountains when Jennifer falls for Mexican boy, Julio, played by Acevedo (a veteran of California Music Circus' West Side Story, The King and I, Paint Your Wagon). Ben, meanwhile, falls for Lily (played by PTC favorite Anne Stewart Mark, of the company's recent hit, Les Miserables), one of the women in the mining town.
Parlato is a Broadway vet who appeared in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, A Chorus Line, Chess and the recent Sound of Music. He also appeared on TV's "The Guiding Light."
The musical by the songwriters of My Fair Lady and Camelot introduced the songs "I Talk to the Trees" and "They Call the Wind Maria" — numbers that reference the indifference and cruelty of the natural world.
This rewrite, with a new book by David Rambo (playwright of God's Man in Texas, among others and a writer/producer on the TV series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation"), has been in the works for several years and has evolved beyond its earlier 2004 staging in Los Angeles. Book and lyrics are by Alan Jay Lerner, music is by Frederick Loewe. Orchestrations are by Tony Award nominee Steve Orich (Jersey Boys), who has also been attached for several years. The Pioneer production is in association with Christopher Allen, D. Constantine Conti, and Larry Spellman, who will take the show on to a commercial future.
The complete creative team has not been announced, nor have dates for any future production beyond Salt Lake City.
The Pioneer Theatre Company production of Paint Your Wagon will feature Max Robinson as Wilmer Wagner/Old Prospector; Erick Pinnick as Ulysses Wilson; Mark Mineart as Bull Bullnack; Daniel Marcus as L. Salem Strauss; Terrance Goodman as Jake Whippany; Jacqueline Bayne as Cherry Jourdel; Justin Ivie as Preacher McNulty/Woodling; Kelvin Moon Loh as Ah Wah, with Jessica Wu, Elizabeth Clinard, Teresa Bramwell, Rebecca Lord, Kim Stephenson, Vanessa Cheney, Daniel T. Simons, Buck Hujabre, Mike Kirsch, Shaun Parry, Correy West, Zephyrus White, Peter Leskowicz, Thomas Marcus and Jon Copier.
"We've been in discussions with commercial producer Christopher Allen for almost five years now about the possibility of producing a revised version of Paint Your Wagon as a potential jumping-off point for a national tour or Broadway revival," PTC's artistic director Charles Morey said in a previous statement. "The fabulous songs from the original 1951 Broadway musical are still there…but the book and orchestrations have been revised significantly to solve some of the problems with the original story."
According to Pioneer production notes, "It's 1852, and Ben Rumson is looking to strike it rich in the gold fields of California. He has raised his daughter Jennifer in the gold camps, and she has become a beautiful, if somewhat tomboy-ish, young woman. She's also the only woman for miles around, and some of the miners have become skittish around her. One day she meets and falls in love with Julio, a handsome young Mexican miner. When a lecherous miner with designs on Jennifer discovers that she loves Julio, he frames Julio as a gold thief, forcing them to run off together. Meanwhile, Ben strikes it rich, and an enterprising miner imports some beautiful 'fandango' girls to keep the miners entertained. Ben finds himself falling in love with the lead fandango girl. The story plays out against some of the most striking and memorable show tunes in Broadway history…"
In 2005, Playbill.com reported that producers Christopher Allen, D. Constantine Conte and Larry Spellman had been seeking a next-step production of their Broadway-aimed "revisal."
Recognized for a potent score that includes "They Call the Wind Maria," "I Talk to the Trees," "Another Autumn" and "Wand'rin' Star," the Broadway musical is also known for its cumbersome libretto, an original tale of gold prospectors setting up camp in the Old West.
Within that original tale by Alan Jay Lerner, however, is a love affair between Jennifer Rumson, who is the daughter of a prospector, and a Mexican boy named Julio. That romance and some aspects of the musical were retained by new librettist Rambo for a fall 2004 test production of a revised script and score at Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Geffen producing director Gilbert Cates directed, Kay Cole choreographed. Sharon Lawrence starred, playing a new character — a onetime actress named Lily, a love interest for prospector Ben Rumson.
Gil Cates, producing artistic director of Geffen Playhouse, is no longer attached to Paint Your Wagon.
"There's no doubt that the music is spectacular," Allen previously told Playbill.com. "We got permission from the estate to explore and retool the book. We knew that it was something that could be polished and revamped as something meaningful and timely for today's audience."
Allen said that late composer Frederick Loewe had gone on record saying Paint Your Wagon was his favorite score — in a career with lyricist Lerner that includes the beloved Brigadoon, My Fair Lady, Camelot and the film "Gigi" (and its stage version).
The "exploration" of the material in L.A. included some judicious cuts and interpolations for the 2004 Geffen staging. For example, "My Last Love," a song from the Lerner and Loewe flop What's Up?, was added to the score, for Lily; "Hand Me Down That Can o' Beans" was cut; and the title song from the Lerner and Loewe movie "The Little Prince" was borrowed and revised.
"We learned from the Geffen production," Allen said. "As a result of that, Pioneer Theatre in Utah came to us and was interested in mounting the next step…revising from what we learned in L.A."
Allen, a Las Vegas based produced who produced Beehive at the Luxor there, said a producer friend came to him with the idea of Paint Your Wagon. Like many people, he knew the title and some songs, but wasn't sold on the script.
The lumbering 1969 film version, which has additional songs by Lerner and composer Andre Previn (and Clint Eastwood singing "I Talk to the Trees") does nothing to help the reputation of the property — the motion picture is widely considered to be a mess.
Yet, there is something in the property that grabs the American heart, Allen said. "There's something great about the energy and enthusiasm of the miners at that time," Allen said.
And, he said, he's looking forward to a great designer bringing out some of the show's visual ideas — romance, the seasons, the land, the exploitation of nature and the optimism of the get-rich-quick (or die) pioneer life.
For more information about Pioneer Theatre Company's Paint Your Wagon and the 2007-08 season, visit www.pioneertheatre.org.