Sunday, July 08, 2001

Non-Equity 'Music Man' could hit the wrong notes

        Hmmmm. Are we due for a little trouble right here in River City? Hours after Fifth Third Bank Broadway Series announced The Music Man as part of its season, the buzz was that it would be a non-Equity production. That was confirmed last month by Variety.

        While it's not unusual for the series to slide a non-union show into the season, you may recall the brouhaha last winter when former Brady Bunch star Barry Williams was the name attached to a non-Equity Sound of Music.

        Local union actors serenaded theatergoers with new lyrics (what rhymes with “scab?”) to the tunes of “My Favorite Things” and The Brady Bunch theme. (Charges and counter-charges between Mr. Williams and Actors' Equity have been filling the air with something more acrimonious than the sound of music ever since.)

        Broadway Series exec producer Brad Broecker isn't expecting any variations on“Trouble” to greet The Music Man here. That's because, in an effort to keep ticket prices down, the show isn't likely to have a big-name star.

        “The show is the star,” he points out, adding that Craig Bierko, who took the title role in the Broadway revival, was hardly a household name.

        Dish on casting of national tours is all over the Web. Here's the latest relating to the announced Fifth Third Bank Broadway Series:

        For sure: Patrick Cassidy (little brother of David and Shaun) is the male lead in the Elton John-Tim Rice Aida. Barring unforeseen circumstances, watch for him on the Aronoff's Procter & Gamble stage this season.

        The South Pacific tour opens in Minneapolis later this month starring opera star Richard Stilwell and Erin Dilly. Ms. Dilly was last seen here in the national tour of Beauty & the Beast. (She was the pretty one.) Most recently she was in the short-lived Broadway revival of Follies, very moving as one of the younger selves in the melancholy memory musical.

        Web reports continue to rumor that Robert Goulet, who has been starring in tours of South Pacific for decades, will be joining the cast. But as to a Cincinnati appearance by Mr. Goulet, Mr. Broecker says no, adding a warning that other casting “changes daily.”

        The 2002-2003 Broadway Series season is already shaping up as family friendly.

        The Lion King already has been announced. Now one-time Olympic gymnast Cathy Rigby, a favorite Peter Pan, has signed on to tour in Seussical. She was the Cat in the Hat who closed with the show, and she was engaging as all get-out. Don't be amazed to see it in next year's lineup.

        The Full Monty has also hit the road, so there'll likely be something for mom and dad in the 2002-2003 season, too.

        Planning 'Nixon': The long-in-the-planning run of Nixon's Nixon in London (see Page E1) finally came together in early June at a dinner party at actor Tim Donoghue's Connecticut home. Director Charles Towers and his wife, Meghan Loughney, formerly with Cincinnati Opera, were among the guests.

        The conversation turned to Nixon and its London prospects, then went on. Late that night, a call came in from two other dinner guests who offered to be the show's final investors.

        A flurry of e-mails and phone calls ensued.

        Now Mr. Towers is waiting for the actors to arrive in Lowell, Mass., on Monday for a week of brush-up rehearsals. “Even after all these years there are moments we can refine,” Mr. Towers says. Playwright Russell Lees lives in nearby Boston and will drive over.

        The company flies to London on Saturday.

        Mr. Towers is postponing his elation while he gets to work. “I'll celebrate after it opens,” he laughs.

        A female Fool: In Playhouse in the Park's season opener King Lear, Joneal Joplin (in the title role) and Philip Pleasants (Gloucester) will be joined by another Playhouse favorite.

        Dale Hodges, who starred in the theater's stirring production of Wit last year will do some gender-bending to play Lear's faithful Fool.

        Listen for the incidental music in the production. Composer is Douglas Lowry, dean of University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music.

        A short run: Glimmer, Glimmer and Shine, playwright Warren Leight's followup to Tony Award-winning Side Man, has its last New York performances today. The play, which premiered at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati last fall, was met by indifferent to negative reviews on its opening six weeks ago.

        "Evita' crowd: When Cincinnati Music Theatre's Evita travels to Columbus over Labor Day weekend it will number a cast and crew of almost 70, including a full orchestra under the direction of Dick Wesp. Evita will be one of four productions representing southwest Ohio in the Ohio Community Theatre Association's annual competition,

        That's a lot of commitment to the performance of a 30-minute excerpt, but not unheard of says Ed Cohen, who co-directed the show with his wife, Dee Ann Bryll.

        Among the competition will be a production of Titanic. “There will be 58 people on stage,” Mr. Cohen observes.

        This is the fourth time the husband-wife team has worked together, and the fourth time their collaboration has been elected to go on to help represent the area in statewide competition. (Past shows are Windy City, Anything Goes and Assassins.)

        The secret to their success, Mr. Cohen says, is working with good people, whether they're playing large roles or small, onstage or behind the scenes.

        Mr. Cohen and Ms. Bryll team up for a show every few years. Next title on their wish list is Parade, which was the Broadway debut for young composer Jason Robert Brown and won him a Tony Award for best score.

        The material is tough — Alfred (Driving Miss Daisy) Uhry'sbook is based on the real story of the arrest, trial and lynching of a Jewish man falsely accused of rape and murder in Atlanta. “I don't know if anybody would do it,” Mr. Cohen sighs.

        Joining Evita in representing southwest Ohio are Beau Jest, Village Players of Fort Thomas; Weird Romance, Footlighters; and Pride's Crossing, Drama Workshop, also directed by Mr. Cohen.

        Having two excerpts going to statewide competition “is a heady experience,” Mr. Cohen says.

        This fall Mr. Cohen will relax with a production of Neil Simon's Rumors for Village Players. He's already pondering next summer's Cincinnati debut of Israel Horowitz's fascinating Liebensraum, which imagines the outcomes if the German government announced its intention to make reparations for the Holocaust.

        Dates at Miami: Miami University's 2001-2002 Performing Arts Series includes several dates worth circling, including visits from the National Ballet of China and Mercy, a new work by composer, singer and director/choreographer Meredith Monk.

        Hall Auditorium series: Oct. 30, National Ballet of China performing La Sylphide and The Yellow River; Nov. 27, Titanic: The Musical; Dec. 6, Moscow Philharmonic performing The Nutcracker and Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1 with soloist Kyoko Takezawa; Feb. 21, Porgy and Bess.

        Millett Hall series: Oct. 16, Mercy integrates dance, music and visual art by sculptor Ann Hamilton; Jan. 28, Sweet Honey in the Rock; Feb. 8, pianist Andre Watts; April 12 and 13, Room, a one-woman show sampled from the writings of Virginia Woolf, performed by the Saratoga International Theatre Institute (SITI) under the direction of Anne Bogart.

        With Ms. Bogart committed to a brief residency at Miami University and a lengthy one at the Wexner Center in Columbus, an appearance at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music early in 2002 has to be in the offing.

        Miami University's performing arts calendar includes a family series. For information and season brochures call the Miami University box office at (513) 529-3200.

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