Rhino does Sondheim
by Richard Dodds
Stephen Sondheim aficionados who have been following the labyrinthine journey of the songwriter's most recent musical – known in its different incarnations as Wise Guys, Bounce, Gold, and Road Show – should be gladdened to learn that Road Show (the title that has stuck) will be part of Theatre Rhinoceros' newly announced season. Four other attractions are in the 2013-14 season that will take place in several venues as Rhino continues its wayfaring ways in its 36th season presenting LGBTQ theatrical entertainment.
It's become tradition that each Rhino season contains a new play by Executive Director John Fisher, and that is how the season will begin on Sept. 23 at Z Below Theatre. Fisher's To Sleep and Dream is described as a drama about a father-son confrontation involving past, future, and a present that includes a coming-out story.
Sondheim's Road Show continues the season with performances beginning Jan. 2 at Eureka Theatre. With a libretto by John Weidman, it follows the adventures of the real-life Mizner brothers, the gay Addison and straight Wilson, whose get-rich schemes became reality, and churned moral dilemmas and self-destruction, as they played a major role in putting Florida on the map as a vacation destination in the 1920s.
The Habit of Art was Alan Bennett's follow-up to The History Boys, and it continues the Rhino season on March 27 at Z Below Theatre. At its core, it creates a fictional encounter between the unabashedly gay poet W.H. Auden and the more closeted composer Benjamin Britten. But as one London theater critic wrote after seeing its 2009 debut, "The play has enough layers to make Pirandello blanch." There is no space here for a further synopsis, except to say that truth becomes a commodity that can be bartered.
It's a one-night-only affair as Rhino continues the season on April 6 at Z Below with its annual Benefit Spectacular, which traditionally assembles various Rhino alums and luminaries for a variety show and party.
The final attraction of the season is Walk Like a Man, beginning performances May 28 at ACT's Costume Shop. This is a theatrical adaptation of Laurinda D. Brown's like-titled book of monologues and short stories focusing on African-American lesbians. Rhino's press release borrows from the book's promotional blurb that promises tales "so hot with passion you'll need somebody to cool you off."
Season tickets are now on sale at therhino.org.
A walk down 42nd St.
A rave review from The New York Times was not enough to keep It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman running for more than a few months. But with Superman recently back on the big screen, and with the big guy celebrating his 75th birthday, 42nd Street Moon is opening its new season on Oct. 2 with the 1966 musical. The show perhaps came too soon to ride the wave that began with Christopher Reeve's Superman 12 years later. However, the musical score by Strouse and Adams, of Bye Bye Birdie fame, is well-regarded.
Artistic Director Greg MacKellan and Producing Director Stephanie Rhoads announced the 21st Moon season, which continues with its third visit to I Married an Angel. The 1930 musical with book, music, and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart begins its new run on Oct. 30. It's the story of a wealthy banker who gets his wish, and then has reasons to regret it, when he vows only to marry an angel. Notable songs from the score include "Spring Is Here" and "I'll Tell the Man in the Street."
Songwriters Hal Hackady and Larry Grossman have the unfortunate distinction of writing some of the most high-profile flop Broadway musicals of recent decades, including Grind, A Doll's Life, and Minnie's Boys. But their biggest success was birthed right here in San Francisco in 1975, and Snoopy!!! will return to the city as 42nd Street Moon's third show. This sequel to You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown went on to have long runs off-Broadway and in London.
The Moon troupe will next take its turn at creating the kind of musical it is fond of reviving. Painting the Clouds Away, arriving April 2, features songs by such fabled tunesmiths as Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer, Richard Whiting, and others. MacKellan and Mark D. Kaufman have written a new story about movie musicals and the smiles they offered during the Great Depression.
Cole Porter's The New Yorkers had a rough road to Broadway, and by the time it opened in 1930, it had a cast of nearly 100, three separate orchestras, specialty turns by Jimmy Durante, and a song banned from the radio. "Love for Sale" was that song, and no double entendre was involved; it was sung by a streetwalker who described her profession in AABA rhymes. The show was conceived as a sendup of various New York types, and somewhere between Philadelphia and New York gained a plot about gangsters and high-society dames. Other songs in the score include "I Happen to Like New York," "Let's Fly Away," and "Take Me Back to Manhattan."
The season concludes, as is traditional, with a "salon" dedicated to various Broadway greats. Thou Swell! Thou Witty! – The Rodgers and Hart Salon will take place May 12-13 at a venue to be announced. All other productions will happen at Eureka Theatre. Info on series subscriptions is available at 42ndstmoon.org.