BWW Interviews: Artistic Director Paul Hope Talks Bayou City Concert Musicals, Charity & Education
Despite being completely busy preparing for the concert staging of A TOUCH OF VENUS, Paul Hope, Artistic Director and Founder of Bayou City Concert Musicals, took a break from his busy schedule to talk to me about his innovative and charitable organization. Since it's inception, Bayou City Concert Musicals has been providing Houston audiences with well-produced and lauded performances of often-neglected musicals. Continuing to grow an ever-increasing loyal audience and fan following, I asked Paul Hope to tell me more about Bayou City Concert Musicals and the shows they choose to produce.
What is your inspiration for performing often ignored scores in a concert setting?
City Center Encores! in New York. They're our inspiration. They produce concerts of shows that they do not think in revival could sustain a commercial run. Ironically, some of their products have wound up on Broadway, most notably their CHCIAGO revival. I think their WONDERFUL TOWN, FINIAN'S RAINBOW, and maybe their HAIR wound up on Broadway. HAIR, maybe I'm wrong about that, but there was some overlap in the cast. Most of the City Center things do not transfer to Broadway. I think the impetus for their company and certainly for Bayou City Concert Musicals (BCCM) is that there is a whole raft of shows that were hits in their day, we're not talking about producing obscure flops-although there are a few of those that could certainly entertain an audience if their material is good- but these shows for one reason or another did not get filmed or they got filmed in a very inaccurate version, like ON THE TOWN where only two songs of Leonard Bernstein's score were retained for the Hollywood film version. As a result, audiences may not enjoy the piece when they see it on film, so then it becomes a risky prospect for producers to program that piece because audiences, particularly musical theatre audiences, respond to what they know.
As a result, ON THE TOWN, as one example, GENTLEMEN PERFER BLONDES, even though everyone loves the Marilyn Monroe movie; it's not very much like the stage version, and not much of the stage score is included, PAL JOEY was very much corrupted by bringing in other Rogers & Hart songs and cutting songs that were really written for PAL JOEY and actually kind of cleaning it up a little when it's a much racier show, and in the case of ONE TOUCH OF VENUS, which we're doing this year and was a big hit being Mary Martin's first starring vehicle; it was made into a film starring Ava Gardner and RoBert Walker, and all the songs were cut except for the hit song "Speak Low," which in the middle of an otherwise non-musical film, suddenly Ava Gardner bursts into song, albeit dubbed song, and sings "Speak Low." So, the masses never got to experience VENUS on film as a musical, so they don't know if they would like or enjoy it if they bought a ticket to it, so producers then are nervous about programming it. That should answer your question.
Oh, the difference between what City Center Encores does and what we do is in New York they usually edit the script and do a very abbreviated version of the book, mostly because I think they think New Yorkers already know these shows when they walk through the door. We do the complete script because, in many cases, this is the first time that Houston audiences will be seeing one of these pieces. Also, we are completely staged-no one holds book. There are costumes involved, even sometimes if it is just enough to give people a flavor of the period and the locale. We use bentwood chairs and stools, which are sometimes dressed with tablecloths or pillows or whatever, to suggest furniture or location. The orchestra is onstage behind us, and the numbers are fully choreographed. We've kind of taken City Center Encores! and gone as far toward a full production without it yet being one.
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