Jason Danieley & More to Star in World Premiere of Ahrens & Flaherty's KNOXVILLE

The cast of KNOXVILLE also features Hannah Elless, Paul Alexander Nolan, Ellen Harvey and Nathan Salstone.

By: Mar. 02, 2022
Jason Danieley & More to Star in World Premiere of Ahrens & Flaherty's KNOXVILLE

Asolo Repertory Theatre has announced full casting for the world premiere of the new musical KNOXVILLE. The project reunites Frank Galati, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, the Tony Award®-winning creative team behind Broadway's Ragtime. Galati, an Asolo Rep Associate Artist, also directs the production. KNOXVILLE begins previews on April 15, opens on April 23, and runs through May 11, in the Mertz Theatre, located in the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.

"KNOXVILLE is a tremendous achievement and a great moment of theatrical artistry," said Asolo Rep Producing Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards. "I'm so proud of our contributions to its development. Now is the time we need the spiritual, moral and artistic guidance of this great trio of American artists - Frank Galati, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens."

Based on James Agee's autobiographical, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Death in the Family, the story begins as Agee struggles to write his greatest work - about the event that touched his young life and the effect it had on his mother, his town and his own future. A powerful illumination of the forces that shape who we are, KNOXVILLE is a universal coming-of-age story about family, faith and love - and about the boy who will grow up to write it. With a sweeping musical score and an extraordinary creative team and cast, this moving and innovative world premiere is a must-see event.

"Agee 'writes' the story as the audience experiences it," Galati said. "Our musical begins in 1955 in the Author's workshop. He thinks, 'Maybe by telling my story, I can find out who I am.'"

Galati adapted the book, with music by Flaherty and lyrics by Ahrens. Asolo Rep commissioned the project starting in 2018 and hosted a developmental workshop in June 2019, in addition to producing the world premiere. The show was initially set to premiere in April 2020 but was delayed by the pandemic.

"The story throws us back to the turn of the century and World War I, but it's sown in the field of 1950s anxiety," said Galati, who first encountered the book in college in the 1960s and revisited it again six years ago. "When you read Agee's work, you retrieve the series of crises of the heart and faith that are universal. It revives in your mind what it felt like to be six years old."

Flaherty and Ahrens were also inspired by Agee's prose. Flaherty tapped into the story's history and setting. "I tried to create a very American sound that had elements of folk and country - music that could have been presented at home in a casual, intimate way," he said. "Actors often play instruments throughout the evening, supporting one another both musically and emotionally."

Ahrens's lyrics reflect and amplify the poetry and mystery of Agee's prose. "The novel has been a wellspring of inspiration," Ahrens said. "And after two years of isolation and uncertainty, it's a joy to return to a show that has so much to do with community and connection."

KNOXVILLE's first draft received a staged reading in New York City in December 2018. Broadway choreographer Josh Rhodes, whose previous Asolo Rep credits include the 2019 production of The Sound of Music and the recent production of Hair, joined the project during its 2019 workshop in Sarasota. The creative team also includes Robert Perdziola as the scenic and costume designer and Donald Holder as the lighting designer. The music supervisor is Tom Murray.

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty have garnered Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for their unforgettable music and lyrics, and their work has been nominated for two Academy Awards® and Golden Globes®, and four Grammy® Awards. The dynamic musical team behind Ragtime, which has been translated and produced around the world, Anastasia (Broadway production and feature film), Once on This Island, which received the 2018 Tony Award for Best Revival, Seussical, and more, were inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2015.

Frank Galati is an Associate Artist at Asolo Rep, where he has directed Rhinoceros, The Little Foxes, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, 1776, Twelve Angry Men and more. He received two Tony Awards for his direction and adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath and was nominated for a Tony for helming the original Broadway production of Ragtime. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay, with Lawrence Kasdan, of The Accidental Tourist. He is a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.

The cast of KNOXVILLE is led by Broadway veterans Jason Danieley, Hannah Elless, Paul Alexander Nolan, Ellen Harvey and Nathan Salstone.

Jason Danieley (Author, James Agee) originated roles on Broadway in Pretty Woman, The Visit, Curtains and The Full Monty, and also starred in Chicago, Next to Normal and Candide. Other originating credits in NYC and regionally include Floyd Collins, Dream True, Beauty and The Highest Yellow, with starring turns in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Sunday in the Park..., 110 in the Shade and Brigadoon. He has also appeared in televised concerts and symphony concerts around the world.

Hannah Elless (Mary Follet) starred on Broadway as Margo Crawford in Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's musical Bright Star and most recently originated the role of Jess in Jack Thorne's Broadway adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Other Broadway credits include the latest revival of Godspell and the off-Broadway productions of Summer and Smoke, Come Back Little Sheba, Picnic and The Other Josh Cohen. Her film and television credits include The Lake Effect, Nora Ephron Goes to Prison, The Deuce and Glee.

Paul Alexander Nolan (Jay Follet) spent six years at the Stratford Festival in Canada before transferring to New York, where he has led seven Broadway productions: Jesus Christ Superstar, Once, Doctor Zhivago, Bright Star, Chicago, Escape to Margaritaville and Slave Play. He is currently collaborating with his writing partner on a concept album about isolation entitled T+L.

Ellen Harvey (Aunt Hannah Lynch) has appeared on Broadway in Present Laughter (with Kevin Kline), How to Succeed in Business... (with Daniel Radcliffe), The Phantom of the Opera, The Music Man and Thou Shalt Not. She's also appeared in the national tours of Mary Poppins, High School Musical and Mamma Mia! Her television credits include Martha Wilson in House of Cards, The Blacklist, Gotham and Younger.

Nathan Salstone (Andrew Lynch) was part of the original cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway and appeared in the first national tour of Hadestown. His off-Broadway and regional credits include Enter Laughing, Rags, Rock of Ages and Spring Awakening.

The cast also includes Sarah Aili (Sally Follet), Natalie Venetia Belcon (Jessie), Dwelvan David (The Ferryman/Doctor Dekalb), Jack Casey (Rufus Follet), Barbara Marineau (Catherine), William Parry (Joel), Abigail Stephenson (Victoria), Joel Waggoner (Ralph Follet), Scott Wakefield (Man at the Scene) Alan Chandler (Swing), Sade Crosby (Swing), Ian Johnston (Swing), Patricia M. Lawrence (Swing) and Sharon Pearlman (Swing).

KNOXVILLE contains mature themes and is recommended for age 10+.

KNOXVILLE runs April 15 - May 11, 2022. Previews are April 15 - 22. Visit asolorep.org for a full performance schedule. Orchestra and Mezzanine seats start at $57 and Balcony seats start at $33. Tickets are available now in person at Asolo Rep's Box Office at 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, by phone at 941.351.8000 or 800.361.8388, or online at asolorep.org.

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