Klea Blackhurst Stars in MERMAN'S APPRENTICE in Concert at Birdland Tonight

The Broadway at Birdland Concert Series is proud to announce that Stephen Cole and David Evans musical fable, Merman's Apprentice, will appear at the historic Birdland stage for a sold-out performance tonight, June 15 at 7pm. Directed by Igor Goldin (Yank) the cast features (in alphabetical order) P.J. Benjamin, Klea Blackhurst, Anita Gillette, Bill Nolte, and Elizabeth Teeter supported by a six-piece band with orchestrations by Lynn Shankel.

Merman's Apprentice is a new musical fable with Book & Lyrics by Stephen (After the Fair, The Road To Qatar, Night of the Hunter) Cole and Music by David (Birds of Paradise, Children's Letters To God) Evans. Bistro Award Winner Klea Blackhurst will appear as Ethel Merman, with a cast lead by Tony nominee Anita Gillette as Ethel's Mom, with Bill Nolte as David Merrick, J.P. Benjamin (Broadway's current Wizard in Wicked) as Ethel's Pop and 13 year-old Elizabeth Teeter, who is currently playing Young Queen Elizabeth in The Audience on Broadway, will play Muriel Plakenstein: Merman's Apprentice. Additional cast members include Adam Grupper, Eddie Korbich and Brian Charles Rooney.

Synopsis: Time: the 1970's. The Golden Age of Musical Theatre is drawing to an end, although twelve-year-old Muriel Plakenstein doesn't know that. So she runs away from home to become a Broadway star, meets the Queen of Broadway Ethel Merman, who takes her to a Hello, Dolly! rehearsal, where they sing together. When legendary producer David Merrick hears the kid, he decides to star Muriel in the first all-child cast of Dolly! Naturally, Merman takes her under wing to teach her the ropes of being a star...making little Muriel Plakenstein Merman's Apprentice. It's a tuneful, original smart, funny, warm, new musical comedy about childhood, parents, Broadway and Ethel Merman. Who could ask for anything more?

Klea Blackhurst's credits include: Everything the Traffic will Allow, Vernon Duke's Broadway, Dreaming of a Song: Music of Hoagy Carmichael, Jerry Herman's Broadway at the London Palladium. Television and radio appearances include The Caroline Rhea Show, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, Sesame Street, Law and Order: SVU and A Prairie Home Companion

Anita Gillette's TV and Theater credits include her Tony nomination for Chapter Two, Jimmy, Cabaret, Gypsy, Law and Order, Moonstruck, Cold Case, CSI and They're Playing Our Song.

In 2003, Bill Nolte starred in The Producers, putting his unique spin on the pigeon-keeping playwright Franz Liebkind, a role he performed on Broadway, across the country, and in Japan. Bill's other Broadway credits are La Cage Aux Folles, Jane Eyre, A Christmas Carol, The Secret Garden, Me and My Girl, Amour and his debut in Cats.

P.J. Benjamin's credits include Wicked, Chicago, Sophisticated Ladies, Sarava and The Pajama Game.

Elizabeth Teeter has appeared in Mary Poppins and is in the current running The Audience, where she plays the Young Elizabeth.

Stephen Cole is an award-winning musical theatre writer whose shows have been recorded, published, and produced from New York City to London to the Middle East and Australia and Edinburgh, Scotland. Stephen's creations include: After the Fair, The Night of The Hunter (Goodman), Saturday Night at Grossingers, Casper (Chita Rivera), Dodsworth (Dee Hoty, Hal Linden) and The Road to Qatar. Last season Cole wrote and directed Inventing Mary Martin, which played Off-Broadway starring Emily Skinner, Jason Graae, Lynne Halliday and Cameron Adams.

Stephen Cole's The Black and White Ball, written with Todd Ellison, was produced by Chicago's FWD Theatre Project this past January. This year, Stephen conceived and wrote and hosted an evening of his songs entitled Cole Mining: The Songs of Stephen Cole at off Broadway's Urban Stages. This evening featured numbers from many of his shows sung by Marni Nixon, Klea Blackhurst, George Dvorsky and Sara Zahn. Stephen has also collaborated with David Krane, Todd Ellison, Susan Kim, Claibe Richardson, Jeffrey Saver, Steve Silverstein, Billy Straus and Matthew Ward.

David Evans is a composer and musical director/conductor whose credits include: A...My Name is Alice, Children's Letters to God, Wicked, Company, Flower Drum Song, Bells are Ringing, Marie Christine and As Thousands Cheer. For the past 11 years David has been associate conductor of Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre.

Merman's Apprentice In Concert is set for tonight, June 15 at 7pm at Birdland, 315 West 44th Street, NYC. For more, go to www.BirdlandJazz.com or visit www.stephencolewriter.com.



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