Vanities, a "Cheer"-ful New Musical, Begins Pre-Broadway Run in CA Aug. 22

News   Vanities, a "Cheer"-ful New Musical, Begins Pre-Broadway Run in CA Aug. 22
Lauren Kennedy, Sarah Stiles and Anneliese van der Pol are the three friends — and onetime cheerleaders — who evolve over 25 years in Vanities, A New Musical, starting on its path to Broadway Aug. 22 with an engagement at Pasadena Playhouse in California.
Vanities promotional art
Vanities promotional art

With book by Jack Heifner, music and lyrics by David Kirshenbaum and direction by Judith Ivey, the intimate musical is based on Heifner's hit 1976 comedy that ran for 1,785 performances Off-Broadway and blossomed in regional theatres in the years to follow.

Opening is Aug. 29. Performances continue in Pasadena, CA, to Sept. 28.

Vanities is billed as "a funny, sexy and poignant look at the journey of three All-American girls as they mature from cheerleaders to sorority sisters to independent women. Spanning the turbulent '60s through the late '80s, Vanities celebrates the lives and loves of three best friends caught up in rapidly changing times."

This musical version of the hot Heifner property includes a special scene that's not in the play. In it, we learn the fate of the characters. In the earlier production at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto in 2006, the scene was a brief coda; it has now been fleshed out.

Composer-lyricist Kirshenbaum told from California that "there are half a dozen new songs" since the earlier TheatreWorks production, and "a whole new scene (no longer just a coda or epilogue) set years after the ending of the original play." Kennedy (Broadway's Spamalot, Sunset Boulevard, Side Show, London's South Pacific) plays Mary, Stiles (Avenue Q, …Spelling Bee) plays Joanne, and van der Pol (Broadway's final Belle in Beauty and the Beast, TV's "That's So Raven") plays Kathy.

How did the play's '60s-'70s period inspired Kirshenbaum, musically?

He explained, "The '60s and early '70s were arguably the richest era for pop music in the whole 20th century, from the Beatles to Burt Bacharach to even Broadway, which as we know was enjoying sort of its last gasp at the top of the hit parade — with everything from Hair to Hello, Dolly!; since Vanities, the play, takes place over that entire period, I heard the music in the piece right away. And since the story revolves around a friendship between three women, that's what I zeroed in on for inspiration: the girl-group music of the Supremes and Shirelles, the songs of Lesley Gore and Ellie Greenwich, moving through the decade into the more soulful sounds of legends like Janis Joplin and Tina Turner and the singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and Carole King. Interestingly enough, those last three just had a best-selling book published about their music and the complicated relationship between them, called 'Girls Like Us'). One thing that's different about the musical is that it goes beyond the timeframe of the original play, and adds a new scene set 15 years later; that takes us to about 1990, by which time pop music obviously had a whole different kind of sound, so we have some fun with that for one song."

He adds, "But hopefully the whole thing is filtered through a theatrical sensibility, and my own style, and sounds cohesive as a score... I love Jack's original play and these three characters, and I've been having the time of life musicalizing all of it with him."

The Vanities creative team includes choreographer Dan Knechtges (Xanadu, …Spelling Bee), set designer Anna Louizos (In the Heights, Curtains), costume designer Joe Aulisi ("Charlie's Angels"), lighting designer Paul Miller (Legally Blonde), sound designer Tony Meola (Wicked), music director Carmel Dean (…Spelling Bee) and orchestrator Lynne Shankel (Cry-Baby).

The understudies are Elizabeth Brackenbury and Ali Spuck. Both ladies are understudying all three parts.

Vanities will be produced on Broadway by Junkyard Dog Productions and Bartner/Jenkins Entertainment. No theatre or dates for Broadway have been announced.

Vanities, A New Musical was originally produced at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto in summer 2006. The critically acclaimed production was awarded two Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Musical Production and Best Original Score, and was also showcased at the 2006 National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) Festival of New Musicals.

Kirshenbaum is the composer-lyricist for Summer of '42 (book by Hunter Foster), which ran Off-Broadway at the Variety Arts Theatre; and Party Come Here, seen at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2007.

Ivey is the recipient of the Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for her performances in Steaming and Hurlyburly. She also recently toured the U.S. in the one-woman show, Irene O'Garden's Women on Fire. Ivey's most recent directing credit is the Off-Broadway production of Secrets of a Soccer Mom. Prior to that, she directed The Butcher of Baraboo (Second Stage Uptown Series), Fugue (Cherry Lane Theatre) and More with Yeardley Smith (Union Square Theatre, and the Falcon Theatre in Los Angeles).

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Sarah Stiles, Lauren Kennedy and Annelise van der Pol
Sarah Stiles, Lauren Kennedy and Annelise van der Pol Photo by Joan Marcus
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