Asolo Repertory Theatre prepares for the world premiere of the Frank Loesser musical tribute
The music of Frank Loesser has inspired countless of performers, musicians and audience members for almost a century. If his name doesn't immediately register, his songs and shows will. With musicals like "Where's Charley," "Guys and Dolls," "The Most Happy Fella," "Greenwillow" and "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," Loesser's work and unforgettable songs always spoke for themselves. In addition to his shows, Loesser was a prolific songwriter. Songs like "Baby, It's Cold Outside," "Heart and Soul," "Luck Be a Lady Tonight," and "Brotherhood of Man," are just some of the more than 700 songs Loesser helped create. The songs, music and shows combined with mulitple Tony Awards, an Oscar, a Grammy and a Pulitzer Prize make Loesser one of the most influential songsmiths of the 20th century.
It's this impressive and nearly unrivaled catalogue of songs that inspired Gordon Greenberg to conceive and direct a new musical revue that uses 28 of the best songs from the Loesser catalogue to pay tribute in a musical revue. "Luck Be a Lady: The Iconic Music of Frank Loesser" will have its world premiere at the Asolo Repertory Theatre with prviews April 28 through 30 and the show opening on May 1 and running until May 24.
"Being here feels like a creative home for me," says Greenberg who has directed at Asolo Rep three previous times for "Yentl," "Working" and "Barnum," "And Frank Loesser had this unique ability to inject character and story into his songs. I immediately though we could build a musical out of this stuff." Greenberg has such respect for Loesser that when creating this new work, he collaborated with Jo Loesser (Loesser's wife) and Emily Loesser (his daughter). Both will be attending the opening as Asolo Rep and Sarasota celebrate their huband and father's irreplaceable impact on American musical theater.
The musical itself is set in an abandoned nightclub in the early 1950s. Six lost souls, three men and three women, drift into the nightclub looking for a connection to their past lives through the music of their youth. That music, of course, is provided by Loesser's genius. "I want people to feel like they're walking into a haunted space." says Greenberg.
Choreographer Denis Jones (who just choreographed Jason Robert Brown's "Honeymoon in Vegas") has been deeply influenced by Loesser's songs and work. Two of which he saw celebrated revivals of in the 1990s: the 1992 revival of "Guys and Dolls" and 1995 "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying." "These shows were vibrant, joyful, colorful and smart," says Jones. "I have been inspired and informed by these productions and it has been such a pleasure working with these songs."
During a preview for the press, donors and theater enthusiasts, the six-member cast performed several Loesser originals including "Once in Love With Amy," "Wanting to Be Wanted," "I'll Know," and a thrilling finale of "Heart and Soul." The cast itself are musical heavyweights including: Erik Altemus (fresh from the acclaimed Broadway revival of "Pippin"), James David Larson (Roundabout Theatre Company's "Into the Woods"), W. Joseph Matheson (Theatreworks Productions' "Paulo & Daphne"), Mary Michael Patterson (recently as Christine in Broadway's "The Phantom of the Opera"), Louise Pitre (the original lead in "Mamma Mia!") and Stephanie Umoh (the Broadway revival of "Ragtime").
And as the six-person squad of talent took their much deserved bow, the spirit of Loesser filled the rehearsal room. Greenberg says the show is filled with ghosts. Well if these musical ghosts and songs are what's coming, then Asolo and Sarasota theater lovers will love to be haunted.
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