I’ve dropped a few blogging hints here how interested Tim Rater and I are about the prospect of developing new musicals and have found among us, in our Director/Choreographer for Hairspray, Amber Mak, a tireless and passionate champion, the Artistic Director of the FWD Theatre Project. Last night, Tim drove us to Pilsen (my first time) where we had dinner at Dusek’s (fresh, melt in your mouth oysters at a happy hour special, a buck a pop and chicken fried veal sweetbreads deliciously adventurous) and then strolled up the hallway stairs to watch Amber’s volunteer company present a staged reading directed by David Bell with Northwestern University’s American Music Theatre Project for which he is also Artistic Director. This was the world premiere of a new rock musical, La Revolution Francaise discovered by Bell some 40 years ago, written by (among others) those fabulous frenchmen, Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, who also were involved in writing a couple of world famous ditties, Miss Saigon and Les Miserables! Now, with a renewed appreciation for these monumental shows having directed both on the Paramount stage, hearing what this team had put together for a new project was positively huge to this little guy from Aurora! Boubil and Schonberg were there, and I was positively star struck! When they entered the stage at the end of the performance the sold out crowd rose to its feet. All I could think of all night was what a once in a lifetime event this is and how thrilled I am especially for the students in the reading to have this experience. Congratulations, Amber!
Running late per usual, I’ve left my riverfront digs and am now sitting in The Copley attending this morning’s workshop session for William Carlos Angulo’s choreography for our West Side Story. As I enter the theater, William and his dancers are already onstage working, and he turns and flashes a smile and greeting, and my heart leaps to receive their cheerful energy in the room. Yesterday, the men worked on a frenetic, hallucinatory “Officer Krupke” after the women worked last week on a sexy hipped, shoulder and head rolling, defiant “America” articulating paso doble hands, wrists, fiery footwork and arched lunges to the floor. As on their first day to dance the complex “Mambo,” the men and women are together today working on developing the “Somewhere Ballet.” There are moments of discussion followed by silence, purely concentrated movement and dance. The dialogue continues, and I return to typing, but when Tom Vendafreddo begins to beautifully play and sing, I look up and am spellbound by Angulo’s invention and the dancers’ artistry. At once athletic and poetic, there is sisterhood and brotherhood, a desperately imagined idyllic safe place for Tony and Maria to escape to within their newly vowed union as ” one hand, one heart.”
Before saying so long, a few updates setting the record straight about some misunderstandings associated with Paramount’s Oklahoma! Our ”Curly,” Colte Julian proposed opening night to his “real life Laurey” his longtime girlfriend, Erika Senase, and not to his “onstage Laurey” Allison Sill. Ms. Sill is a single lady!
And Paramount’s acclaimed production is choreographed by Katie Spelman. It’s a little confusing, because Agnes de Mille saw to it over some 70 years ago that she will forever be billed with the line, ”Original Dances by Agnes de Mille” on the title page of every playbill along with the original composer Richard Rodgers and librettist/lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. This is well deserved but misunderstood by some missing that what you see in our Oklahoma! is not Ms. de Mille’s historic work but the new, thrilling work of our own Ms. Spelman!
Love & thanks,