South Coast Repertory Performs PRELUDE TO A KISS in April

Performances run April 5-May 4, 2024 on the Segerstrom Stage as the centerpiece to SCR’s 60th season.

By: Feb. 28, 2024
South Coast Repertory Performs PRELUDE TO A KISS in April
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Craig Lucas returns to one of his theatrical homes as South Coast Repertory will present the world premiere of Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical, lyrics by Sean Hartley and Daniel Messé, music by Messé, book by Lucas. Directed by Ivers, it runs April 5-May 4, 2024 on the Segerstrom Stage as the centerpiece to SCR’s 60th season.

Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical is produced in association with Milwaukee Repertory Theater, where it will appear in the 2024-25 season.

The original Prelude to a Kiss was a 1988 SCR world premiere play. It went to Broadway, where it received a Tony Award nomination and a Pulitzer Prize nomination, before moving to Hollywood and becoming a feature film starring Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan. It returns to SCR as a musical that explores what happens when a mysterious guest requests a kiss at Peter and Rita’s wedding—and their lives are forever changed. Refreshed, reimagined and elevated by a breathtaking score, this modern fable soars through the peaks and valleys of love—the perfect salve for our disconnected times.

“I think audiences can expect a book and source material that is tried and true, really gorgeous, inspired writing,” said Ivers, who will direct. “I know it’s must-see theatre because the source material is so strong and because Craig, Sean and the brilliant Dan Messé have worked together to deliver a score that, to me, is one of the most inspiring, beautiful, heart-lifting, affirming scores that doesn’t shy away from some of the challenges of the world.  

“I think we have a really, really beautiful piece of theatre on the page.” 

SCR commissioned Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical in 2016. Three years later, Ivers directed it as a featured reading at the theatre’s Pacific Playwrights Festival. When Ivers became SCR’s artistic director in 2018, he watched a video of one of the songs during the play’s early development phase. Afterward, he called his artistic team together and told them, “I’d like to bring this here.”

“That started the process. That’s how we arrived here, in a very bumpy way, in between and betwixt COVID and cancellations and postponements and workshops and cancelled workshops,” Ivers said, citing numerous impediments that pushed the premiere back to this year.

Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical brings Lucas’ work back to SCR for the first time in a decade. Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical will be Lucas’ seventh play at SCR, joining Reckless(1985), Blue Window (1985), Three Postcards (1987), Prelude to a Kiss (1988), Marry Me a Little (1988) and The Light in the Piazza (2014). Currently, Lucas is enjoying Broadway success with another musical adaptation—the well-received Days of Wine and Roses.

 His other credits include God’s Heart (1997), The Singing Forest (2004), Prayer for My Enemy (2007), An American in Paris (2014), Amélie (2015) and Paradise Square, which earned a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical. An American in Paris earned a Tony nomination for Best Book.

 “I’m overjoyed to be returning with the musical of Prelude to a Kiss to South Coast Repertory where the play first opened its eyes and looked around,” Lucas said.

Hartley’s musical theatre works include Cupid and Psyche, written with composer Jihwan Kim, produced off-Broadway in 2003. He received the Spirit Award for Best Book of a Musical for his work on Little Women, which went on to regional productions across the country. Hartley wrote the book, music and lyrics for Snow, which won the ASCAP Harold Arlen Award for Best New Musical. 

Messé and Lucas have made theatre magic together before. Along with co-lyricist Nathan Tysen, they collaborated on the musical adaptation of the French film Amélie, which debuted on Broadway in 2017. Messé has written four musicals for TheatreWorks USA, collaborating with book author and lyricist Mindi Dickstein. As the founder and principal songwriter of the indie-folk band Hem, Messé scored The Public Theater’s summer Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night.

 “Craig Lucas has been part of the trajectory of the theatre for a very long time and it’s important to me to have a few touchstone, legacy playwrights re-introduced and brought back to the theatre,” Ivers said. “We did that with Richard Greenberg and—earlier this year—Octavio Solis as well. This feels particularly great that Craig is working with us again during our 60th anniversary season.”

“It’s profoundly gratifying to have the story of Prelude to a Kiss come back home in its new adaptation as a musical,’ Tomei said. “As an SCR world-premiere play, it marked a significant advancement for South Coast Repertory and I can think of no better way to celebrate our 60th season than sharing this world-premiere musical with the Orange County community, which has supported our initiatives in new-play development for decades.”

SCR’s artistic director since 2018, Ivers’ previous SCR directing credits include One Man, Two Guvnors (2015) and She Loves Me (2020). He also helmed the 2021 Pacific Playwrights Festival reading of Coleman ’72 by Charlie Oh and the 2022 reading of A Million Tiny Pieces by Spenser Davis. Along with his SCR credits, Ivers has directed plays at many of the country’s leading regional theatres, including The Guthrie Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company (where he served as artistic director) and Utah Shakespeare Festival (where he spent more than 20 years as an actor, director and artistic director).