Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Casting: The People in the Picture

With the tragic demise of The Scottsboro Boys this fall, it looks like The People in the Picture will be this season's potential "art show" musical.  I'm sure you know what I mean - the one show that is serious, artistic...the one that theatre snobs point to as "the future of the American musical."  Sometimes, as in the case of next to normal, the balance of art and entertainment is found and pleases enough people in both camps to have a long, successful run.  But usually, despite critical acclaim and a bevy of awards, these shows are fast closers.  In recent seasons, we've had LoveMusik, A Catered Affair, and further back, Passion, Sunday in the Park with George...I could go on.

With a book by the author of Beaches (Iris Rainer Dart), one can be certain that emotional buttons will be pushed with laughs turning to tears and tissues passed all around the theatre.  On paper, this multi-generational show about a Jewish immigrant reads either as the next Grey Gardens or a schmaltz fest ready for community theatres to devour and overdo.  The presence of Donna Murphy and director Leonard Foglia, however, tends to make look at this with more seriousness than I might have otherwise, for neither has a track record of just doing a show to do a show.  In fact, the casting of the show in its entirety brings this little show, which has flown almost completely under the radar, into potential "take it all away from the big, splashy shows" potential.

Donna Murphy

Again having two time Tony winner (Passion, The King and I) and multi-Tony nominee Donna Murphy in the leading role - one that requires her to play a range of ages - really does up the ante.  She is a genuine Broadway stage actress who happens to specialize in musicals.  Rare, indeed.

She is being supported by a cast of pretty decent heavy-hitters, as well.  Joining her will be Alexander Gemignani (Sweeney Todd, Assassins), Christopher Innvar (Les Miserables - original, 110 in the Shade, Victor/Victoria), Nicole Parker (Wicked, Martin Short: fame Becomes Me), Rachel Resheff (Shrek, Billy Elliot, Mary Poppins), Hal Robinson (Grand Hotel: The Musical, Nich and Nora, Cabaret - 1998), Lewis J. Stadlen (The Producers, Minnie's Boys, 45 Seconds from Broadway), Joyce Van Patten (Brighton Beach Memoirs, Rumors), and Chip Zien (Into the Woods, Falsettos, A New Brain).

Alexander Gemignani, Nicole Parker and Christopher Innvar

The ensemble/supporting cast includes: Brad Bradley (Steel Pier, Spamalot, Billy Elliot), Rachel Bress (9 to 5: The Musical, Mamma Mia!), Jeremy Davis (9 to 5: The Musical, Billy Elliot, South Pacific), Emilee Dupre (debut), Maya Goldman (Shrek: The Musical), Louis Hobson (next to normal), Shannon Lewis (Contact, Fosse, Curtains), Jessica Lea Patty (A Chorus Line, The Addams Family), Andie Mechanic (debut), Megan Reinking (Hair, Lestat), Jeffrey Schecter (A Chorus Line, The Pajama Game) and Paul Anthony Stewart (Cyrano: The Musical, Fiddler on the Roof).  Several of these people have carried large roles in big musicals, which really speaks to the depth of talent in this company.

Louis Hobson, Shannon Lewis and Paul Anthony Stewart

And with a score by legendary songwriter Mike Stoller (Smokey Joe's Cafe), musical direction by theatre legend Paul Gemignani, and staging by hot Broadway director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, this Roundabout Theater production has a whole lot going for it.

I have a good feeling about this show, after all.

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