City Center to Launch ENCORES! OFF CENTER; Sutton Foster to Lead VIOLET, Kathleen Marshall to Direct GETTING MY ACT TOGETHER & More!
New York City Center goes Off-Broadway this summer with the launch of Encores! Off-Center, a new series featuring seminal Off-Broadway musicals filtered through the lens of today's most innovative artists. In keeping with City Center's founding mission to make the arts accessible to all, the majority of tickets will be $25.
The series, under the artistic direction of Jeanine Tesori, will open on July 10 with The Cradle Will Rock, Marc Blitzstein's historic 1937 allegory of corruption and corporate greed, directed by Sam Gold and choreographed by Chase Brock. Cradle will be followed by a one-night-only performance of Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley's Violet, starring Sutton Foster and directed by Leigh Silverman, with music direction by Michael Rafter on Wednesday, July 17. The series will conclude with Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford's I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall , July 24 - 27. Chris Fenwick will music direct Cradle and Getting My Act Together. Tickets will go on sale April 15.
"The goal of Encores! Off-Center is to connect the innovators of today to the shows that expanded creative boundaries in the past," said Jeanine Tesori. "We want to find out what happens when contemporary artists meet this material. How will today's directors, musicians, actors and audiences relate to these stories?"
Like the wildly popular Fall for Dance Festival, launched by City Center in 2004, Off-Center aims to attract new and younger audiences by offering affordable tickets.
"I strongly believe that we need to build a new generation of musical theater lovers," said New York City Center President & CEO Arlene Shuler. "That's why the $25 ticket for Off-Center is so important. We want young people and people who have never been to a musical theater performance to fall in love with it and discover something in this art form that speaks to them."
In the Encores! tradition, there will be a great emphasis on the scores, with the orchestra performing onstage, and each show will receive a brief rehearsal period followed by five performances. The series also will feature free, pre-curtain conversations with a range of special guests including artists, scholars and musicians. These events, while informative, will also be entertaining in their own right, featuring genres ranging from visual art to spoken-word poetry and beyond. The events will place the musical in the context of its legacy and provide insightful explorations of the work the audience is about to experience.
THE CRADLE WILL ROCK
The Cradle Will Rock, with music, lyrics and book by Marc Blitzstein, is a Brechtian allegory of corruption and corporate greed that pits exploited workers against greedy, union-busting businessmen. The show was developed in 1937 with funds from the Federal Theater Project, a branch of the WPA.
The original production, directed by Orson Welles, was shut down four days before opening. Officially, it was shut down due to WPA budget cuts, but many cited the show's pro-union themes as the government's impetus for its closing. The show finally opened Off-Broadway at the Venice Theatre in 1937 with private funding. Financial and union issues precluded an orchestra, so Blitzstein himself played the piano at the first preview, with the actors singing from the audience. When the show moved to Broadway, union rules dictated a 10-person orchestra. But Blitzstein insisted on keeping the solo piano and paid nine musicians not to play each night. The story is that Blitzstein chose 10 of his neediest friends for the job. The show opened at the Windsor Theater on January 3, 1938 and ran 108 performances, directed by Howard Da Silva.
Leonard Bernstein brought The Cradle Will Rock to City Center in 1947 with the original orchestrations, and for the first time, the play was performed with full score, chorus and actors. The cast included Shirley Booth, Howard DaSilva, and Jack Albertson. The show was revived in 1983 by The Acting Company, directed by John Houseman and starring Patti LuPone.
Violet, based on the short story "The Ugliest Pilgrim" by Doris Betts, has music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Brian Crawley. Set in 1964 in the Deep South during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, Violet follows the growth and enlightenment of a young woman accidentally scarred by her father. In hopes that a TV evangelist can cure her, she travels to Oklahoma. Along the way, she meets a young black soldier who teaches her about beauty, love, courage and what it means to be an outsider. Violet opened Off-Broadway for a limited run at Playwrights Horizons on March 11, 1997. It won the Obie Award, Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical, and Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical.
I'M GETTING MY ACT TOGETHER AND TAKING IT ON THE ROAD
I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road, with book and lyrics by Gretchen Cryer and music by Nancy Ford, opened on June 14, 1978, produced by Joseph Papp and the New York Shakespeare Festival. It ran for 1,165 performances. The story revolves around a 39-year-old singer who is attempting a comeback as a pop star by performing personal songs that reflect women's changing roles and attitudes.
Chase Brock (Choreographer, The Cradle Will Rock)'s credits include the Encores! production of Lost in the Stars and the Broadway productions of Picnic (Roundabout Theatre Company, directed by Sam Gold) and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. His Off-Broadway credits include Venice and The Blue Flower ( Lortel nomination). He choreographed the video game Dance on Broadway, the opera Roméo et Juliette (Salzburger Festspiele) as well as 25 dances for his company, The Chase Brock Experience.
Sutton Foster (Violet) is a two-time Tony Award winner for her performances in Anything Goes and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Sutton's other Broadway credits include roles in Shrek the Musical, Young Frankenstein, The Drowsy Chaperone, Little Women, Les Miserables, Annie, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Grease, in addition to numerous Off-Broadway and Regional credits. She currently stars as Michelle Simms in the ABC Family series, "Bunheads." Sutton previously starred in the Encores! production of Anyone Can Whistle.
Chris Fenwick (Music Director, The Cradle Will Rock, Getting My Act Together) musical directed the original productions of Michael John LaChiusa's Giant, Los Otros, Queen of the Mist and See What I Wanna See. Broadway credits include Grease, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Pajama Game, Wonderful Town, and Elaine Stritch at Liberty. His credits include the Off-Broadway productions of Hello Again, Here Lies Jenny, Road Show, Happiness, and Mother Courage and concerts with Patti LuPone at Carnegie Hall, Ravinia Festival, and many more.
Sam Gold (Director, The Cradle Will Rock) directed the Broadway productions of Picnic and Seminar, and the Off-Broadway productions of The Flick, Look Back in Anger, Uncle Vanya, Kin, The Aliens and Circle Mirror Transformation. He is a recipient of the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Director, the OBIE Award for Outstanding Direction, and the Princess Grace Award, among others.
Kathleen Marshall (Director/Choreographer, Getting My Act Together...) returns to City Center, where she has directed and choreographed the Encores! productions of Bells Are Ringing, Applause, Carnival and Hair, among others, and served as artistic director for four seasons. Her Broadway credits include Nice Work If You Can Get It, Anything Goes, The Pajama Game; Wonderful Town; Grease; Boeing, Boeing; Little Shop of Horrors; Follies and Kiss Me, Kate. She has received three Tony Awards, three Drama Desk Awards and three Outer Critics Circle Awards.
Michael Rafter (Music Director, Violet)'s credits as music director/conductor include the Broadway productions of Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Sound of Music, The King & I and Gypsy. He was music supervisor of the Broadway production of Everyday Rapture and the national companies of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Sunset Boulevard, The Sound of Music, The Buddy Holly Story, and associate music supervisor of Jersey Boys. Michael won an Emmy Award for the television production of "Gypsy" starring Bette Midler.
Leigh Silverman (Director, Violet) is a two-time Obie winner and directed the Current Productions of The Madrid starring Edie Falco (MTC) and The Call (Playwrights Horizons). She directed the Broadway productions of Chinglish and Well. Her recent Off-Broadway credits include In the Wake, No Place To Go, Yellow Face, Coraline, From Up Here, Go Back To Where You Are as well as Golden Child and next season's Kung Fu as part of David Henry Hwang's Signature season.
Jeanine Tesori (Artistic Director, composer, Violet) composed the scores to the Broadway productions of Caroline, or Change (2004 Tony nomination for Best Original Score), Shrek the Musical (Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations for her music), Violet, (Obie Award, New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical, and Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical), and Thoroughly Modern Millie (2000). Tesori arranged the music for the Broadway productions of the Johnny Mercer revue Dream, the 1998 revival of The Sound of Music and the 1999 revue Swing!. She also served as associate conductor for the Broadway productions of The Secret Garden and The Who's Tommy. She has written music for several plays, including Twelfth Night at Lincoln Center and Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, which was produced as part of the 2006 Shakespeare in the Park season. Tesori is currently working on commissions for the Washington National Opera and a joint initiative of the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center. She is a lecturer in music at Yale University.
New York City Center gratefully acknowledges the Leadership support of Stacey and Eric Mindich and Stacy Bash-Polley. Additional support for Encores! Off-Center has been provided by Alec Stais and Elissa Burke and Larry Hirschorn and Melissa Posen.
New York City Center (Arlene Shuler, President & CEO) has played a defining role in the cultural life of the city for nearly 70 years. It was Manhattan's first performing arts center, dedicated by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in 1943 with a mission to make the best in music, theater and dance accessible to all audiences. Today, City Center is home to many distinguished companies, including City Center's Principal Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, as well as New York City Opera and Manhattan Theatre Club; a roster of renowned national and international visiting artists; and its own critically acclaimed and popular programs. The Tony-honored Encores! musical theater series has been hailed as "one of the very best reasons to be alive in New York." Dance has been integral to the theater's mission from the start, and dance programs, including the annual Fall for Dance Festival, remain central to City Center's identity. City Center is dedicated to providing educational opportunities to New York City students and teachers with programs such as Encores! In Schools and the Young People's Dance Series. Last year, City Center completed an extensive renovation to revitalize and modernize its historic theater.
Tickets for all Encores! Off-Center productions start at $25 and will be available starting April 15. Tickets can be purchased online at www.NYCityCenter.org, by calling CityTix at 212.581.1212, or at the City Center Box Office (West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues).