Theatre At Arts Garage and Dramaworks Stage Concert Musicals This Summer

By Bill Hirschman

If this seems to be a summer jammed with play readings across the region (at least 18 set so far and we have more to announce over the next few days), musical theater fans will be penciling in dates on their calendars as well, as early as tomorrow night.

Palm Beach Dramaworks and the Theatre at Arts Garage are mounting “concert versions” of musicals – classics in Dramaworks’ case and new works at the Garage in Delray Beach.

While the staged concerts have a small band, minimal (or no) sets or costumes and have short rehearsals periods, they do offer the entire show as the actors work with scripts on music stands.

Dramaworks’ “Musical Theatre Master Series” begins July 10-21 with the passionate classic Man of La Mancha, which finds author Miguel de Cervantes acting out the story of his novel in progress Don Quixote while awaiting trial by the Inquisition in a prison cell, Although all of the creators produced other shows, the script by Dale Wasserman, music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion, direction by Albert Marre and choreography by Jack Cole arguably represented each man’s greatest achievement – not to mention benchmark performances by Richard Kiley and Joan Diener. The score is best known for the breakout anthem, “The Impossible Dream” but the entire show is a masterpiece in every category. Caryl Fantel will serve as musical director.

Then, Aug. 7-18, Dramaworks will present Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking Company. With Hal Prince’s direction and George Furth’s book, Company’s incisive vignettes are credited with shoving musical theater out of its adolescence and into adulthood. Company examines diverse “sorry-grateful” marriages through the eyes of their close friend Bobby, who is turning 35 years old and is unable to commit to a romantic relationship. Oddly condemned when it bowed in 1970 as cold and intellectual, its score has come to be appreciated as gloriously passionate, fueled with angst recognizable to most audience members, especially its penultimate cry of the heart “Being Alive.” Paul Reekie is the musical director. Company replaces Dramaworks’ previously announced Carousel.

Dramaworks’ kicked off this series last summer with a popular production of Camelot directed by Clive Cholerton who will helm these as well. As artistic director of the Caldwell Theatre Company, Cholerton won kudos for similar concert productions of such shows as Sondheim’s Sunday In The Park With George. Casting for both shows will be announced soon.

The Dramaworks performances will be Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. General admission tickets are $35, student tickets at $10.

The productions will be mounted on Dramaworks’ mainstage at 201 Clematis Street. For more information, call (561) 514-4042 or visit www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.

But for something completely different, shows you’ve not only not seen but never heard of, Arts Garage’s “Summer Tune Up” will be held every Thursday in June beginning  tomorrow.

Artistic Director Louis Tyrrell said, “Each of these new works is a unique and original artistic effort; together, they represent the best of what is being written in American musical theater today.”

“The idea for the series came right out of our core mission: produce and develop new work in American theater,” he said. The program “exposes our community to new small musicals, which would otherwise be unavailable in our area; supports the artists who are writing this new work, and, gives us an opportunity to determine which musical, if any, we would like to take to full production in a subsequent season.”

The shows are:

June 6: Tinyard Hill by Tommy Newman and Mark Allen
Tinyard Hill, Georgia, is a small town partial to old-time music and new-forged dreams, especially for a handsome young blacksmith hammering out a living at the historic smithy his family has owned for generations. When an out-of-this world beauty and an out-of-the-blue draft notice arrive within days, his life is turned upside down.  Set in the ‘60’s to a foot-stompin’ country-pop score, this feisty new musical tells of a family, fortune, patriotism, and romance in an era of irresistible change. The work has been developed at the National Alliance for Musical Theatre and at Goodspeed Opera House. It’s had a full production at TheatreWorks in Silicon Valley.

June 13: The Longing And The Short Of It by Daniel Maté
A song cycle about six mixed-up strangers in a room on an inner quest to feel “something like okay.”  Maté is the winner of the 2013 Kleban Prize for Most Promising Musical Theatre Lyricist and will serve as the show’s musical director. The news release states these clever, catchy, and insighful songs reveal the poignant and hilarious ways we all strive to attain self-esteem, connection, and peace of mind, often despite ourselves.

June 20: Hostage Song by Clay McLeod Chapman & Kyle Jarrow
In this rock musical, which had an off-Broadway run, a man and woman are blindfolded and bound. Jennifer is a journalist who was kidnapped at a check-point. Jim is a contractor working for the Pentagon. We are never told exactly when or where the events take place, but the details strongly suggest a current conflict involving America. Slumped in an empty cell, Jennifer and Jim pass the time by playing games or exchanging reminiscences about their families and the turbulent circumstances that have brought them together. The New Yorker magazine wrote of an earlier production: “A high-decibel romantic comedy with a seriously unnerving edge… Chapman’s delicately rendered scenes flow effortlessly into Jarrow’s songs, which are outgrowths of the characters’ fantasies.  The show isn’t solemn – it actually rocks – but it isn’t in bad taste either.  Instead, it brings a punk aesthetic to a common dilemma: The desire to connect with the most horrific stories of the day.”

June 27: Dani Girl  by Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond
A dark musical comedy that explores an extremely serious subject in an unexpectedly imaginative and humorous manner. When Dani, a precocious nine-year-old, loses her hair to leukemia, she vows to get it back. Convinced that the key lies in discovering the reason for cancer’s existence, she embarks on a magical quest to answer the question “Why is cancer?”  Together with her teddy bear, movie-obsessed hospital roommate, and shape-shifting guardian angel, Dani journeys through the realms of fantasy and reality, searching for the answer and battling a personified Cancer along the way. Faced with the prospect of death, Dani discovers the beauty of life and, ultimately, wins back her hair.

All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15-$20 in advance, $5 more at the door. Arts Garage is located at 180 NE First Street in Delray Beach on the north side of the parking garage. For more information, call (561) 450-6357 or visit www.artsgarage.org.

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