'Ol' Man River' gets rollin'

Tuesday May 16, 06
by David Cuthbert,

'Ol' Man River' gets rollin'

'Show Boat' among the shows set for Tulane Summer Lyric Theatre's season
Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Cotton Blossom " 'Show Boat' Concert Experience" is due to dock at Dixon Hall June 15 through 18, Conrad Birdie has "A Lotta Livin' to Do" when he hits the Tulane campus July 6 through 9, and the Leading Player of "Pippin" will have "Magic to Do" July 27 through 30.

Tulane Summer Lyric Theatre Artistic Director Michael Howard has most of his major cast members in place for the shows that comprise Summer Lyric's 39th season, representing three distinct eras of American musical theater.

"Things may be a little different," Howard said, "but I think it's going to be an exciting season. The concert 'Showboat' will have more action and dance than you might expect, we have the option of adding some of the songs from the film and TV versions of 'Bye Bye Birdie' and there'll be some surprises still to come in the rest of our casting."

Anais Patterson, the sultry cabaret chanteuse whose vocal range extends from operatic highs to low-down blues, has been cast as Julie in the groundbreaking 1927 Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II "Show Boat," singing "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man of Mine" and "Bill."

She joins the already announced Joe Akin as gamblin' man Gaylord Ravenal and Sarah Jane McMahon as Magnolia, who'll duet on "Make Believe." (Akin and McMahon played star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony in last year's "West Side Story.") Also on the passenger manifest: Juilliard grad James Martin ("who is a real find, with a stunning voice," Howard said), as Joe, who sings "Ol' Man River"; David Hoover as Cap'n Andy; Charlotte Lang as Queenie; and Pearce Wegener as Frank.

The concert staging will include dialogue to bridge songs, costumes and a setting. The orchestra, conducted by the theater's musical director, C. Leonard Raybon, will be onstage. Howard will direct and Ed Kresley will choreograph.

Meanwhile, there's exciting casting news in that Michael Tramontin, the lascivious master of ceremonies in "Cabaret" and Richie Valens in "Buddy" for the Jefferson Performing Arts Society, will swivel his way onstage in gold lamé as Conrad, the world's first Elvis impersonator, in the 1960 Charles Strouse-Lee Adams "Bye Bye Birdie." Kris Shaw will "Put on a Happy Face" as his agent, Albert Peterson; Summer Lyric favorite Liz Argus will be Albert's frustrated fiancee, Rosie; and Chelsea Barker will be Kim MacAfee, the girl chosen to receive "One Last Kiss" from Birdie before he's drafted into the Army.

Also cast: Bob Edes as Kim's father, a role forever associated with its creator, Paul Lynde; Helen Blanke as Albert's wildly possessive mother, Mae; Alexis Bruza as manic teen Ursula; Meredith Long as Mrs. MacAfee; John Nicoletti as the Mayor; Francine Segal as the Mayor's wife; and Beau Landry as Kim's outraged boyfriend, Hugo Peabody. Choreographing and co-directing with Howard will be Kresley, who was one of the original Broadway teenagers in "Birdie," the first musical comedy to pay significant, if satiric, attention to rock 'n' roll.

"Pippin," from 1972, tells a tale of Charlemagne's son's search for enlightenment, performed in commedia dell'arte vaudeville sketches, a show with a charming score by Stephen Schwartz ("Corner of the Sky," "Time to Start Livin' "), which nonetheless was put across by the sexy pizzazz of Bob Fosse's staging. James Martin has the role of the Leading Player, Pearce Wegener will be Pippin, Randy Cheramie plays Charles, R. Kendrick Goode Pippin's half-brother Lewis, Liz Argus is Lewis' mother Fastrada, Lisa Anselmo the young widow Catherine and Mildred Hong will play Berthe, Pippin's lively granny, who conducts a singalong with the audience. Diane Lala will choreograph and Kresley direct.

That wizard of design Rick Paul returns to do sets. Costumes for "Showboat" will be the work of Charlotte Lang, while Julie Winn will costume "Birdie" and "Pippin."

The Summer Lyric box office is open now for season subscription renewals. New season memberships go on sale May 22 through 31 and single show tickets will become available June 1. There are no Saturday matinees this season. Call (504) 865-5269.

New operations manager Charlie Hayes reports that the day brochures for the season came out, one man received his at 11 a.m. and turned up at the box office at noon. "Which we take as good omen," he said.