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Brad Oscar to Star in Asolo Rep's 'Barnum'

Asolo Repertory Theatre's Producing Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards announces the creative team for the theatre's upcoming production of Barnum the musical and names Brad Oscar in the title role. Barnum will be directed by Gordon Greenberg and choreographed by Joshua Rhodes; with music direction by Helen Gregory, scenic design by Michael Schweikardt, costume design by Alejo Vietti, and lighting design by Traci Klainer. Barnum kicks off Asolo Rep's 50th anniversary season in grand style on November 15th.

According to Edwards, "We are thrilled to bring back Gordon Greenberg and Josh Rhodes after the great success of Working. The entire Barnum creative team, along with our own world-class production staff and shops, will create an unbeatable partnership. I didn't think we could raise the bar any further, but we have. Now we have Brad Oscar cast in the lead role as P.T. Barnum, heading up a stellar ensemble. With the remarkable success of Asolo Rep's productions of A Tale of Two Cities and Working last season, the theatre community has become more aware than ever of what we are capable of here and the quality of our work. Audiences are about to experience the spectacle of Barnum with its colorful characters and wonderful music, combined with the brilliant talent of these artists. This will be a dazzling, memorable production. Barnum also gives us the chance to explore Sarasota's rich circus history, forge new partnerships within the local and national arts communities, and create tremendous excitement about our future as we enter our 50th anniversary season."

Says Gordon Greenberg, "I have always been a great fan of Brad Oscar-both as a person and a performer. He was the first person that came to mind in casting the role of P.T. Barnum. We are so fortunate to be able to explore the show anew with such a profoundly talented actor. In many ways, Brad embodies the spirit of Barnum, a born showman with a rich imagination and a keen sense of the public's taste. Barnum was the father of modern advertising and a quintessential symbol of American values. From his humble beginnings in his father's dry goods store in Connecticut to his museums, shows and circus, Barnum was a visionary, bringing us the idea of theatre as family entertainment. This production aims to use the fertile mind and acute ambition of Barnum as fuel for his many successes as well as his personal challenges. It's an incredibly compelling-and all too relatable story, told in the most theatrical and entertaining way-just as Barnum himself would have wanted it!"

Rehearsals commence in Florida on October 14th with previews on November 12-14, 2008. Opening night is on Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 8:00 p.m. with a star studded champagne reception following the performance. Barnum runs through December 20, 2008, with performances at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.

Tickets ($11-$58) are available by calling the Box Office at 1-941-351-8000 or toll free at 1-800-361-8388. You may also purchase tickets online at www.asolo.org. This is an Asolo Rep production in the Mertz Theatre (5555 North Tamiami Trail in Sarasota, Florida).

Asolo Rep has partnered with area hotels to offer a variety of discount packages; go to the Asolo Rep website (www.asolo.org) for more information. For group reservations and discounts, call 941-351-9010 ext. 4810.

About the show: Winner of a Theater World, a Drama Desk and three Tony Awards, this Broadway hit sparkles with a cast of singers, actors, jugglers, clowns and tumblers! Phineas Taylor Barnum had the ability to create illusions and make fortunes at the same time. In this grand production, the worlds of musical theatre and circus fuse into a vibrant and entertaining musical celebrating the colorful, creative and driven life of the World's Greatest Showman, Phineas ‘P.T.' Barnum. Come Follow the Band and meet the extraordinary acts that led Barnum from humble beginnings to ‘The Greatest Show on Earth.'

"Originally produced on the Broadway Stage by Judy Gordon, Cy Coleman, Maurice and Lois F. Rosenfeld in association with Irwin Feld and Kenneth Feld."

"Barnum is presented by arrangement with Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc., 560 Lexington Avenue, New York, New York 10022."

BIOGRAPHIES

Brad Oscar (Barnum, Barnum) Brad recently completed a run of The Mystery of Irma Vep at Arena Stage in his hometown of Washington, D.C. where he was also seen as the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret and Mr. Applegate in Damn Yankees. He originated the role of Franz Liebkind in the Broadway production of The Producers and received a 2001 Tony nomination for his performance, and later went on to play the role of Max Bialystock over 1200 times on Broadway, on tour, in London and in the Las Vegas production. Other Broadway and New York credits include Spamalot, the original casts of Jekyll & Hyde and Aspects of Love, Gerard Alessandrini's Forbidden Broadway, the Encores! Do Re Mi, as well as Santa in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular in Los Angeles and Branson. He appeared in the films The Producers, Building Girl and Old Days and on television in Law and Order and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Brad is a graduate of Boston University and a proud member of Actors' Equity.

Gordon Greenberg-Director (Barnum) returns for his second season after directing last season's Working, to be seen in 2009 at The Old Globe. Credits include: Off-Broadway revival of Jacques Brel... (Zipper Theatre, Drama Desk, Drama League and Outer Critics Award noms), Pirates! Or Gilbert and Sullivan Plunder'd (conceived with Nell Benjamin) Goodspeed & Paper Mill, Happy Days by Garry Marshall & Paul Williams (Goodspeed, Paper Mill, Boyett Theatricals, National Tour), Edges (Capital Rep., Off-Broadway 12/08 at Urban Stages), The Baker's Wife (Stephen Schwartz & Joe Stein, Paper Mill, Goodspeed), Cam Jansen (Larry O'Keefe & Nell Benjamin, Lambs Theatre), Theory of Three (NY Stage & Film), Peter Pan (National Tour); Floyd Collins (Signature Theatre), and many TV commercials. He is Artistic Director of the Broadway Teachers Workshop (www.broadwayteachersworkshop.com) and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Stanford University, NYU Film School and the Lincoln Center Theatre Director's Lab.

Josh Rhodes-Choreographer (Barnum) Josh is thrilled to return to the Asolo after choreographing Working earlier in the year. Other choreography credits include Neil Sedaka's musical Breaking Up is Hard to Do at the Ogunquit Playhouse, Chess, and Dreamgirls at the North Carolina Theatre, All Singing All Dancing and Broadway by the Year 1954 at Town Hall, Bonnie and Clyde for New York Musical Theatre Festival, and the 2008 Broadway Gala for the Kennedy Center. Josh was the assistant choreographer for the Broadway, West End and national touring productions of The Drowsy Chaperone. His performance credits on Broadway include: Fosse, Bells are Ringing, Sweet Smell of Success, Urban Cowboy, Man of La Mancha, The Boy From Oz, and Chicago.

Helen Gregory-Musical Director (Barnum) has performed Off-Broadway (NY Theatre Workshop, WPA, The Vineyard, Public Theatre, LaMama E.T.C., Hudson Guild), in regional houses, (Goodman Theatre, Indiana Repertory, New Jersey Repertory Company, Birmingham Theatre, Papermill Playhouse, Maltz Jupiter Theatre [received 2 Carbonell nominations], Riverside Theatre, & The Hangar Theatre), on national tours (Grease, Joseph..., Oklahoma), for educational institutions, summer stock, dinner theatre, and for numerous weddings. Her original works and arrangements have been featured at several regional theatres (Hudson Guild, Hanger Theatre, Gaslight Theatre, Top Hat Theatre Club, Cornell University, Ithaca College, Diamond Circle Melodrama, & Walnut Hill School) as well as for industrials (American Movie Classics and the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas). Helen wishes to thank her mother, Alice, for paying for many years of piano lessons.

Michael Schweikardt-Scenic Designer (Barnum) created the sets for Ella and critically acclaimed productions 1776 and Big River for Goodspeed Musicals. He designed the American premier of Frank McGuinness' The Bird Sanctuary (starring Elizabeth Franz and Hayley Mills) and productions of Donald Margulies' Collected Stories (starring Lynn Redgrave). For Blue Light Theater Company, Michael designed the sets for Clifford Odets' Golden Boy, Waiting For Lefty (starring Marisa Tomei), The Big Knife (all directed by JoAnne Woodward), The Seagull (directed by Austin Pendelton) and Michael Cristofer's Amazing Grace (starring Marsha Mason). Other credits: All Under Heaven (starring Valerie Harper) and Tallulah Hallelujah (starring Tovah Feldshuh). He has designed for numerous regional theaters and James Taylor's One Man Band Tour. Upcoming projects include the new Duncan Sheik/Kyle Jarrow musical Whisper House. www.msportfolio.com

Alejo Vietti-Costume Designer (Barnum) NY: Grace, Make Me a Song, Tryst, Roulette, The Last Sunday in June, 16 Wounded, 2 X Tennessee, The Wau Wau Sisters, Servicemen, Waiting for Godot, Five Flights, Love's Labour's Lost, Measure for Measure, Othello, Of a White Christmas, productions at NY Musical Theatre and NY Fringe Festivals. Regional: Alley Theatre Houston, Arena Stage, Arizona Theatre, Barrington Stage, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse, Colorado Ballet, Columbia University, Florida Stage, Ford's Theatre Washington DC, Goodspeed Opera, Hangar, Hartford Stage, Longwharf, Metrostage, New York Stage & Film, Northlight, Pasadena Playhouse, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Pittsburgh Public, Rockland Opera, San Diego Repertory, Saint Louis Repertory, Signature Theatre Washington, Theatreworks Hartford, Westport Country Playhouse. International: The Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Donetsk Opera (Ukraine). Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Gold Unit 2007.

Traci Klainer-Lighting Designer (Barnum) NY credits include: The Asphalt Kiss (59E59, Drama Desk nomination); Based on a Totally True Story (MTC); the Broadway production of Prune Danish starring Jackie Mason (Royale Theatre); Four (MTC, Lucille Lortel nomination); Echoes of the War (Mint Theatre); Dragapella (Upstairs Studio 54); Aliens in America (Second Stage); and BC/EFA's Nothing Like a Dame 2001-2004. Regional credits include: The Prince Music Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Capital Repertory, City Theatre, Charlotte Repertory, Adirondack Theatre Festival, George Street Playhouse, and Act II Playhouse. Ms. Klainer is the resident designer for the dance company The Chase Brock Experience and is a partner in the design firm Luce Group.

DIRECTOR'S NOTE by Gordon Greenberg

At a time when American values were still rooted in puritanical tradition, P.T. Barnum had some unpopular ideas about business. He was an expert salesman, to be sure. But he was truly a maverick in his approach. A born showman with a rich imagination and a keen sense of the public's taste, Barnum found an angle for selling every product. In fact, he reinvented his attractions to match his fantastical sales pitches. From his humble beginnings in his father's dry goods store in Connecticut, to his museums, shows, and circus, he was a visionary. Where others saw a decaying fish, he saw a mermaid. Where others saw swampland, he saw an island. What many saw as ‘hoaxes,' Barnum saw as ‘humbugs' or advertisements to draw attention. And he didn't sell anyone a bill of goods. He altered truths and spun stories until others believed in his truth and walked away happy. His philosophy was that as long as the customers left pleased, the means justified the ends. This was the reverse of the basic understanding of advertising at the time, and the old guard on the East Coast of America disapproved of his outlandish claims and unorthodox promotional strategies and looked down their noses at him.

Determined to prove himself legitimate in the eyes of the establishment, Barnum worked tirelessly to find new attractions, and promoted them into becoming international celebrities. He learned to orchestrate the press and always remained one step ahead of the public's constantly growing appetite for entertainment and diversion. Industry was beginning to create a substantial middle class with leisure time and a bit of discretionary income. And Barnum knew where he wanted them to spend it. Although Americans still associated theatre with debauchery and decadence, Barnum brought the idea of the matinee to this country and thus created the notion of family entertainment. Ultimately, he moved beyond show business to become a land developer, banker, and politician. Although many of his pursuits faltered, Barnum remained passionate in his ambition and firm belief that with enough hard work and creativity, he could sell anything. Of course, his philosophy is now seen as quintessentially American. In 2008, Barnum's ideas about marketing couldn't be more popular. With a seemingly endless stream of information and advertising in every venue, from the internet to the very piece you're reading right now, it is clear that Barnum's courage, ingenuity, and ‘humbug,' have secured him a place as the father of modern advertising and a classic American folk hero.

About Asolo Rep: Asolo Repertory Theatre is Florida's premier professional theatre and one of the most important cultural forces in the Southeastern United States. Having built a 50-year reputation as a center for theatrical excellence, Asolo Rep crafts the highest quality productions of classical, contemporary, and newly commissioned work all performed in the rarest form of rotating repertory. Featuring an accomplished resident company - complemented by distinguished guest artists - Asolo Rep offers audiences a unique and dynamic theatre experience. Under the skillful leadership of Producing Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards and Managing Director Linda DiGabriele, this world-class institution has taken a bold step toward the future, building landmark partnerships and collaborations which will add to its success over the next 50 years.

Photo by Richard Lewin


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