Sunday, January 13, 2002

Future of American musical

Summit explores best new works

        Stage composers Ricky Ian Gordon (Dream True) and Michael John LaChuisa (The Wild Party, Marie Christine) will star in Under Construction: A Composers' Summit scheduled for Feb. 1-2 at Human Race in Dayton.

        Billed as “a conversation with creators of new and recent works for the American musical theater,” the topic will be the future of the American musical.

        Mr. Gordon has been called “one of the leading young composers of songs” by The New York Times. Recent stage works include Dream True, a collaboration with writer/director Tina Landau, and Only Heaven, with a libretto created from the work of Langston Hughes.

        Michael John LaChuisa received Tony Award nominations for best score and best book for both The Wild Party and Marie Christine. He's an Obie Award winner for off-Broadway's Hello Again and First Lady Suite.

        Feb. 1 will feature a concert of new works by emerging composers. Feb. 2 includes dialogues, coaching sessions, discussions and an evening concert by Mr. Gordon, Mr. LaChuisa and friends.

        The summit is organized by Human Race executive director Kevin Moore, who founded the theater's musical theatre workshop series, and Joseph Bates and Joe Deer, founders of Music Theatre Ventures.

        Call Human Race for additional information and reservations at (937) 461-3823, Ext. 3115.

        Great Dayton way: Dayton may be way off-Broadway, but you'd never know it by looking at the February production calendar.

        A week after the musical theater summit, (Feb. 10-11), Human Race stages a workshop of new musical Convenience.

        Originally developed at GeVa Theatre in Rochester, N.Y., it's also a product of the National Alliance of Musical Theatre's Festival of New Musicals.

        After seeing a 45-minute excerpt in 2000, “I knew I wanted us to be involved in its development,” Kevin Moore says. “It's witty and moving with an incredible score.” (Some of the songs will be part of the summit's Feb. 1 opening concert.)

        The story centers on the tense relationship between a young gay man and his mother.

        Mr. Moore has pulled in some original cast members for the workshop, bouncing up the budget, but, he sighs, “It's appropriate for the show and I wanted (composer) Greg (Coffin) to have a good experience.”

        Convenience goes back to GeVa for a mainstage production in spring.

        Catch it at Human Race for $12. Call (937) 461-3823 for reservations and information.

        Feb. 22-24, Only Heaven by musical theater summit guest Ricky Ian Gordon will be produced by Muse Machine at Dayton Art Institute. Wright State University prof Joseph Bates was key to that collaboration.

        As to the future of the summit, Mr. Moore says, laughing, “some other composers have called and said, "Why wasn't I asked?' and I tell them, "We're saving you for next year.'

        “The worst thing is creating a wheel for the first time . . . Wouldn't it be great if there could be another one?”

        Mr. Moore's latest musical coupe: off-Broadway hit Bat Boy will be part of the 2002-03 Human Race schedule.

        Having a "Blast': Ready for another blast of Blast!? Dayton's Victoria Theatre is happy to accommodate. The drum and bugle extravaganza that thrilled Cincinnati audiences is scheduled for April 8-13, 2003.

        Blast! will be the first touring Broadway show in the new Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center that opens in early 2003.

        The Victoria's season lineup also includes a long run of Phantom of the Opera at the Schuster Center.

        The schedule: Sept. 6-26, Miss Saigon; Oct. 8-20, Swing!; Nov. 12-24, Same Time, Next Year; Jan. 14-26, The Music Man; April 8-13, Blast! (Schuster Center); May 27-June 8, Over the River and Through the Woods; June 18-July 12, Phantom of the Opera (Schuster Center).

        The Victoria and Human Race collaborate on a three-play Loft Series of hip new work, considered by New York licensing agents just far enough from Playhouse in the Park to snag some overlapping titles:

        The 2002-03 Loft Series: Sept. 19-Oct. 6, Dirty Blonde; Dec. 3-22, The Wonder Bread Years, a solo performance by former Seinfeld writer Pat Hazell; and March 13-30, Pulitzer Prize winner Proof, as close as you get to a sure thing for next season's Playhouse schedule.

        For more information and for a 2002-03 brochure call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or (888) 228-3630 or visit

        The current Victoria season continues with Ragtime, opening Tuesday for a two-week run.

        Two big roles: College-Conservatory of Music grads have landed two of the showiest roles of the current Broadway season — playing opposite each other.

        When the latest Broadway revival of Oklahoma! opens in early spring, directed by Susan Stroman (The Producers, Contact, The Music Man), already announced Ado Annie (Jessica Boevers) will be singing and dancing alongside Justin Bohon as Will Parker.

        Will Tony Award voters notice their supporting work? With Rodgers and Hammerstein solos like “I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No” and “Everything's Up to Date in Kansas City,” they'll be hard to miss.

        "Fall' perfect for summer: Women's Theatre Initiative will return this summer with Bridget Carpenter's Fall, a contemporary coming-of-age comedy-drama set at summer swing dance camp.

        Fall is a crowd-pleaser and has been getting a lot of play across the nation since its debut two years ago.

        “It's a perfect summer play,” Initiative founder Kristin Dietsche says. “It's very funny, there's lots of dancing, but it's also ideal for Women's Theatre Initiative because the playwright — a student of Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive) — takes a complex look at issues of gender, sexuality and mother/daughter relationships.”

        Fall will have a three-week run (dates TBA) in a ballroom space that mimics the play's setting. People dancing by adds a lot to the show's atmosphere.

        Want to dance through a drama? Contact Ms. Dietsche at (513) 604-8545. The Initiative is also putting out a call to women theater artists, angels and anyone interested in working on the production in both professional and volunteer roles.

        Watch for details of a swing dance fund-raiser.

        Initiative takes flight: Fall marks the first solo flight by the Initiative, which was born more than a year ago and incubated by Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival's experimental studio project. A series of readings and WTI's first full production, One Flea Spare, were performed under the festival's wing.

        Festival artistic director Jasson Minadakis says the Initiative “is exactly the kind of original theater project we hoped we could contribute to when we started the studio. We're proud to have been part of WTI's development.”

        What Mr. Minadakis doesn't mention is that the departure of WTI leaves a dark month on the festival stage — a situation that will no doubt be remedied soon.

        Next up for Cincinnati Shakespeare, Tom Stoppard's Arcadia gets its regional premiere beginning Thursday. Information: 381-2273.

        Stage bits: Theatrical this and that: CCM drama student Thomas Korbee Jr. is also a composer. With CCM drama's Richard Hess, he's fashioned the song-cycle Will It Ever Stop Raining that gets a free production in the Studio Theatre Friday and Saturday. Subject is lost and found relationships. Space is limited, and audiences are encouraged to arrive early for a numbered program.

        • Know Theatre Tribe announces a scheduling flip. Season opener (Feb. 8-23) at Gabriel's Corner in Over-the-Rhine will now be Mixed Blood: The New American Gothic.

        The terrific collection of one-acts: The Dutchman by Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones); Eukia by Lanford Wilson; and Bondage by David Henry Hwang. Directors include Taren Frazier and Matthew Pyle.

        The Bible: The Complete Word of God, originally scheduled in those dates, moves to June. “We wanted more time to find quality performers and production staff” for Bible, explains artistic director Jay Kalagayan.

        Information: 871-1429.

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