Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Can Porter's Can-Can-Do Spirit Fill Pasadena Playhouse's National Ambitions?

Can Porter's Can-Can-Do Spirit Fill Pasadena Playhouse's National Ambitions?

According to Phil Gallo of Variety, the Left Coast's Pasadena Playhouse is feverishly trying to cement a national reputation as the perfect home for gestating Broadway shows.

While it already counts John Patrick Shanley's Doubt as one of its own -- and it's looking to Sister Act to make it a habit -- Gallo is reporting that the Pasadena Playhouse's Artistic Director Sheldon Epps now has his eyes set on reviving Cole Porter's Can-Can for the Rose Bowl's hometown and beyond.

It's been 53 years since Can-Can made its Broadway debut. The Parisian-themed musical was a rousing success in 1953 through 1955, winning Tonys for the legendary Gwen Verdon and choreographer Michael Kidd. The production lasted 892 regular performances at the Shubert Theatre (the only Broadway revival in 1981 lasted a scant five performances).

Not only has Epps already secured the rights, along with necessary cash, to move forward with his "re-envisioning" of Can-Can, but he's also engaged David Lee to write its new libretto (Lee wrote 41 episodes of television's "Frasier"). Apparently, the only thing left for Epps to do is find a second theatre willing to help launch this revival to national prominence -- something his Sister Act production has already achieved. That current Pasadena Playhouse production, which has extended performances through December 17, is slated to transfer this January to Atlanta's Alliance Theatre at the Woodruff, the theatre that launched The Color Purple last year.

Rest assured I'll be following the progression of Can-Can, along with Sheldon Epps' can-do spirit.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for Sister Act tickets at Pasadena Playhouse.
Click here for Sister Act tickets at Alliance Theatre at the Woodruff.
Related Stories:
Did Critics Think This Sister Had Its Act Together? (November 6, 2006)

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At 21 November, 2006, Blogger BroadwayBaby said...

Allow me to add a few impressions of my own:

I would venture to guess that David Lee is probably putting up some of his own money into the production. Lee has been a major donor to LA's Reprise organization (an Encores-like non-profit producer of semi-staged Broadway revivals). I would not be surprised if Lee has decided to put some of his own money into a profitable theatre venture. Again, this is PURE speculation on my part.

As a director, Lee's LA theatre directing experiences have been mostly hits with a few notable flops. He's not a particularly innovative director but he is definitely a director who gives a lot of the "musical staging" duties to his choroegraphers. For this reason, it would be interesting to see who David Lee picks as his choroegrapher for this venture.

I do not think that the Pasadena Playhouse will have problems finding a co-producing theatre or theatres. The Pasadena Playhouse has co-produced Purlie with Chicago's Goodman and has now co-produced Sister Act with Atlanta's Alliance Theatre. Musicals are once again "in" and regional theatres seem to be stepping over each other in the rush to get the rights for world premieres and revivals.

Lastly, this is not the first time that the Pasadena Playhouse has produced a Cole Porter "revisal". In 1991 they produced a re-written revival of Porter's "You Never Know". That 1929 musical was re-written as a chamber musical and in the tradition of Porter revivals, songs such as "Ridin' high" and "Let's misbehave" were borrowed from other Porter musicals. That production had the absolutely amazing cast of Kristen Chenoweth, Harry Groener, Donna McKechnie and David garrison. (The cast recording is available on CD and it's absolutely delightful)


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