Robert O'Hara to Direct Two River Theater and NJPAC's Production of THE MUSIC MAN, March 2014
New Jersey Performing Arts Center (President and CEO, John Schreiber) and Two River Theater (Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst) announced today a new collaboration that will bring a concert version of Meredith Willson's The Music Man, performed by an African-American cast, to audiences in both Newark and Red Bank, New Jersey.
The Music Man will be directed by NAACP and Obie Award-winning director Robert O'Hara (Danai Guiria and Nikkole Salter's In the Continuum and Danai Guiria's Eclipsed; Tarell Alvin McCraney's The Brother/Sister Plays (Part 2) at McCarter Theatre and The Public Theater) with music direction by Kenny Seymour (Broadway's Tony Award-winning Best Musical Memphis).
Willson's The Music Man won the 1957 Tony Award for Best Musical and the first Grammy Award for Best Original Cast Album. It tells the story of con man Harold Hill, who falls for piano teacher Marian Paroo ("Marian the Librarian") while introducing the conservative townsfolk of the community of River City, Iowa, to passion and music during the summer of 1912.
In O'Hara's staging, River City will be an African-American town, based on historical accounts of black communities established by former slaves across the United States, including in Iowa, after the Civil War. There will be six performances at Two River Theater in Red Bank from March 13-16 and four performances at NJPAC in Newark from March 21-23.
The musical will be performed by an ensemble of 12 actors. Seymour will lead a six-piece on-stage band. Casting will be announced at a later date.
"NJPAC is thrilled to launch a collaboration with Two River Theater with one of the most beloved musicals of all time, especially through this fresh new take by Robert O'Hara," says John Schreiber, President and CEO of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, who initiated the partnership between the two organizations. "Both NJPAC and Two River are dedicated to engaging our respective communities through diverse programming, and I can't wait to hear Meredith Willson's great score performed by a fantastic cast of African-American theater talents."
John Dias, Artistic Director of Two River Theater, says "As a playwright-and go-to director of others' original work-Robert O'Hara brings to life the too-often-untold stories of African Americans in ways that are dynamic and highly theatrical. He's also got a great love of American theater traditions-particularly musicals-that he approaches with an equal measure of reverence and sassiness. We are excited to see this great American classic through his inimitable lens."
"The New Jersey Theatre Alliance is thrilled to see this wonderful collaboration between our member theatre, Two River Theater, and NJPAC," says Executive Director John McEwen. "This event is just one more example of Two River's commitment to finding new and innovative approaches to theater, and we are proud of our partnership with these two organizations, and delighted that The Music Man will be a part of our annual Stages Festival."
The Stages Festival-the New Jersey Theater Alliance's largest public program-takes place every March and includes discounted and/or free tickets to performances, workshops and events all over New Jersey, with a wide variety of programming for all ages.
Meredith Willson's The Music Man
Book, Music and Lyrics by Meredith Willson
Story by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey
Concert Adaptation by Evans Haile
Performances in NJPAC's Victoria Theater take place Friday, March 21 at 8pm; Saturday, March 22 at 3pm and 8pm; Sunday, March 23 at 8pm. Tickets, on sale now, are $59.50 and $69.50 and can be purchased at www.njpac.org, by calling 1-888-GO-NJPAC or by visiting the box office at One Center Street in Downtown Newark. These performances have been made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and by Discover Jersey Arts.