Monday, April 18, 2011

Tales of the City's Barbary Lane Now More Musical

San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater nabbed the rights to the world premiere of "Tales of the City: The Musical," the musical adaptation of Armistead Maupin's classic book. It plays May 18-July 10th in what is expected to be a pre-Broadway run.

The book for the musical is by Jeff Whittey, who won a Best Book of a Musical Tony award for "Avenue Q." The score and lyrics are from the Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears and John "JJ" Garden, who, while not a full-fledged member of Scissor Sisters, has toured as keyboardist for the band. Direction is by Jason Moore, who was Tony-nominated for his direction on "Avenue Q."

The musical is expected to closely follow the events of the first book in the series. The music has thus far been kept under wraps. The creative team have begun to talk about the project, though:

Though it would be hard for anyone to step into a role made most famous by Academy Award-nominated actress Laura Linney, who first came to prominence as main protagonist Mary Ann Singleton in the 1993 public television miniseries "Tales of the City."

I'm a huge fan of the books (with the exception of Michael Tolliver Lives), Linney absolutely nailed the characters naivety and boundless optimism at the start of the series.

Betsy Wolfe will be playing the lead in the San Francisco try-out.

Wolfe doesn't have a ton of Broadway credits to her name. I missed her as Katheryn Brawner in the 2007 revival of "110 in the Shade" and in one of the musicals from last season, "Everyday Rapture." Is it me or does Wolfe bare a resemblance to Linney?

Far more recognizable is Tony award-winning actress Judy Kaye ("The Phantom of the Opera" and "Ragtime") in the role of Barbary Lane matriarch Anna Madrigal.

Rounding out the trio of main characters is Wesley Taylor as Michael "Mouse" Tolliver.

Taylor was last seen in Chicago (and on Broadway) as Wednesday Addams' love interest Lucas Beinke in the musical "The Addams Family."

So, is Maupin's book in good hands? I'm nervous. The Scissor Sisters are currently on tour with Lady Gaga through at least May 6. That doesn't give Shears a lot of time to devote to tweaking music and lyrics. It's the same problem that Julie Taymor and the producers of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" learned the hard way when U2's touring schedule prevented Bono and the Edge from devoting themselves completely to the score and lyrics for that troubled show.

And the fact that we have heard so little of the "Tales" score makes me even more nervous.

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