York Theatre Company Presents MARDI GRAS and THE LAST WORD Operas, Beginning Today

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The York Theatre Company will present a developmental lab of two short operas, Mardi Gras and The Last Word both composed by Mildred Kayden. Directed by Bill Castellino and with music direction by Christopher McGovern, the 3-member company features Jason Mills, Rebecca Pitcher and Tom Souhrada. Performances are set for today, February 2 at 2:30pm & 8:00pm and February 3 at 2:30pm at The York Theatre Company in Saint Peter's (Entrance on East 54th Street, just east of Lexington Avenue).

These two short modern operas display the impressive musical range of composer Mildred Kayden- as well as her unique view of human relationships. Kayden is best known to NYC audiences as the composer of Ionescopade, successfully revived at the York Theatre last year.

Mardi Gras (last performed in NYC in 1959) combines the formality of opera, the beat of Dixieland Jazz and the style of Commedia Dell'arte. Commissioned by WNYC's Young Artist Series in 1958, it was suggested by Carl Carmer's verse play Pierrot Grows Up and is based upon a true story from the Mardi Gras of 1872. A Russian Grand Duke hears a Burlesque Queen sing and falls head over heels; the smitten Duke loses her to Joe, an American millionaire. The hilarious love triangle (with disguises, hiding places, duels, amorous looks, and lots of high notes beautifully sung) has a surprise ending and a delightful, tuneful score.

The Last Word, with libretto by the late poet James Broughton, premiered in Philadelphia in 1961 at the countrywide Synod of the United Church of Christ. As the recent date of the Mayan end-of-the-world recedes into history, this riveting duet exposes the complex feelings of a husband and wife moments before Armageddon. This piece approaches its subject matter with humor, irony and compassion; the work suggests that, for modern man, the idea of the apocalypse is most easily grasped with a touch of wit.

These two half-hour operas were first presented in tandem in West Hampton, NY in 1961. They present a combination of the witty and the existential which makes for a memorable theatrical journey.

All performances are free and open to the public. Reservations can be made online at www.yorktheatre.org.

Jason Mills is thrilled to be making his York debut. He played The Phantom in the national tour of The Phantom of the Opera and in the Broadway cast where he understudied both the Phantom and Raoul. Other credits include Forbidden Broadway: SVU (also cast recording); South Pacific (Carnegie Hall); Pardon My English and The New Moon (City Center Encores!); and the new musicals Lonely Rhymes, Illyria, and The Taxi Cabaret. Degree in biology from Harvard University.

Rebecca Pitcher best known for her portrayal of Christine Daae in the Andrew Lloyd-Webber production of the The Phantom of the Opera were she performed over 3000 performances including Broadway, the US National Tour, and Singapore. Other favorite roles include Grace Farrell in Annie, Christine Daee in the Yeston-Kopit version of The Phantom of the Opera, Johanna in Sweeney Todd, Rose in Street Scene, Louella Parsons in Saving Aimee, Rapunzel in Into the Woods, and The Queen of the Night in Mozarts The Magic Flute. Rebecca has also performed with the Pittsburgh Opera, Cleveland Opera, the Towson University Orchestra, and was a winner of the Columbus Opera competition.

Tom Souhrada is currently in the Broadway production of Mary Poppins. National Tours: Mary Poppins; Evita; My Fair Lady; The King & I; and The Boy Friend (directed by Julie Andrews). Off-Broadway: Broken Hands; Women on the Verge of Hrt; The Mystery of Irma Vep; Tony and Tina's Wedding. Regional: Cincinnati Playhouse, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Cleveland Playhouse, Great Lakes Theatre Fest, Sundance, Pioneer Theatre, Goodspeed, Ogunquit, Florida Rep, Seven Angels.

The York Theatre Company is the only theater in New York City-and one of very few in the world-dedicated to developing and fully producing new musicals and preserving neglected, notable shows from the past. For over four decades, York's intimate, imaginative style of producing both original and neglected classic musicals has resulted in critical acclaim and recognition from artists and audiences alike. Under the guidance of Producing Artistic Director James Morgan since 1997, the York has focused exclusively on new musicals in its Mainstage Series-most of them world, American, or New York premieres-by some of the field's most esteemed creators, and has also helped launch the careers of many talented new writers. Over 35 cast recordings from The York Theatre Company productions are now available on CD, and commercial transfers of such York premieres as The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!), Souvenir, Jolson & Company, and its acclaimed revivals of Closer Than Ever, Sweeney Todd and Pacific Overtures have all showcased the importance of the York and its programs.

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