Los Angeles' Reprise Theatre Company today announced it's 2010-2011 season, which features three classic American musicals at UCLA's Freud Playhouse: "They're Playing Our Song" (September 28 to October 10, 2010), with music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager and book by Neil Simon, and starring Jason Alexander, the company's Artistic Director; Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's "Gigi" (February 15 to 27, 2011); and Cole Porter's "Kiss Me, Kate" (May 10 to 22, 2011), with book by Samuel and Bella Spewack.
"There will be lots of love in the air for our 14th season," reports Alexander, "but the atmosphere will also be filled with a lot of flying sparks."
"I am fascinated by the way people, especially men and women, jostle for power and position in any given relationship. They do it in professional circumstances and they often do it in love relationships, as well. In Neil Simon's 'They're Playing Our Song', we follow the ups and downs of a songwriting team struggling for success under the pressure of their on again/off again love affair. And most interestingly, the musical's composer and lyricist, Marvin Hamlisch and Carol Bayer Sager, were the models for the couple in the show.
'Gigi' explores the values and mores of love for a couple who socially do not belong together. They come from two different classes, and their behavior should subscribe to a strict code of conduct but is challenged by their true passion for each other.
And 'Kiss Me, Kate' is a battle of the sexes reaching as far back as Shakespeare's time and magnified through the maniacal egos of two, gigantic theatrical stars vying for top billing, accolades and the upper hand in their own flamboyant relationship.
After working on a production of "Taming Of The Shrew" with the on-again-off-again, famed acting team Lynn Fontaine and Alfred Lunt, Saint Subber, then a novice producer, engaged librettists Sam and Bella Spewack and composer-lyricist Cole Porter to create "Kiss Me, Kate".
In 1937, eleven years before "Kate", Porter had suffered a devastating horse accident in which both of his legs were crushed. This led him into a depression where the "cure" included him being one of the first patients to experience electric shock therapy. While he still found some success, his career began to wind down, and after two back-to-back flops ("Seven Lively Arts" in 1944 and "Around The World" in 1946), there was much speculation about his career being over.
But then he was engaged to write the score for "Kate". This show revitalized his career and became his biggest hit. It won the first Best Musical Tony Award and has a score that boasts "So In Love," "Why Can't You Behave?" "Another' Openin' Another Show," and "Too Darn Hot," among others.
The national tour of "Kiss Me, Kate" played Los Angeles as part of the fabled Los Angeles Civic Light Opera Series, whose director Edwin Lester all but invented subscription musical theatre. Thirteen years later Subber and Lester produced "Gigi", which had its world premiere in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center as part of the Light Opera series and was the first stage musical to be adapted from a film musical. The film version of "Gigi" had garnered a then record-breaking nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, for its original author Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe. The team used the film music as the basis for the stage score, adding five new songs; Lerner and Loewe's "Gigi" went on to win the Tony Award for Best Score. Since then, shows such as "Beauty And the Beast" and "The Lion King" have used the idea of moving from the screen to the stage to great advantage.
The original stage production of "Gigi" starred AlfrEd Drake, the original Fred in "Kiss Me, Kate", as well as the original Curly in "Oklahoma!" (Drake was also Yul Brynner's replacement in "The King And I" when Brynner went on the road to play the show for the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera.) "Gigi" also starred Agnes Moorhead, who was very well known to audiences for having played Eudora on the TV series "Bewitched."
After Sager and Hamlisch scored an international hit with "Nobody Does It Better" (the theme song from "The Spy Who Loved Me"), they began to work on a new musical based on some surprising subject matter -- their own romantic life -- with the most successful and popular playwright of the era, Neil Simon. They came up with an unusual, new form for a Broadway musical: a chamber musical with two main characters supported by a three-person Greek Chorus. The result, "They're Playing Our Song", ran 1,082 performances on Broadway, five performances longer than the original production of "Kiss Me, Kate".
"They're Playing Our Song" had its world premiere in the Center Theatre Group series at the Ahmanson Theatre of the Music Center and starred comic Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz, who made her Broadway debut in the role and went on to star in Reprise's inaugural season's "Wonderful Town" in 1997.
Carole Bayer Sager has written the lyrics for "Don't Cry Out Loud," "Everything Old is New Again," "Come in From the Rain," "Heartbreaker," and "That's What Friends Are For," and has collaborated with Neil Diamond, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Peter Allen, Michael McDonald, and Burt Bacharach. In 1977 she was romantically involved with Marvin Hamlisch, who followed winning three Academy Awards in 1973 for "The Way We Were" and the score of "The Sting", with the score for "A Chorus Line" which won nine 1975 Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Score for Hamlisch and lyricist Edward Kleban.
2010-2011 Season Tickets are available online now at www.reprise.org or the UCLA Central Ticket Office at 310-825-2101.