Now that shows like The Producers and The Full Monty have proven that new American musicals (as opposed to revivals, revues, stage adaptations of animated cartoons, and bloated European pop operas) can be huge hits on Broadway, the people who make things happen are likely to be paying much closer attention to organizations dedicated to developing fresh tuners--organizations like Premieres, which is offering its inaugural season of staged readings beginning May 25 at the Clark Studio Theater in The Rose Building at 70 Lincoln Center Plaza.
According to artistic director Paulette Haupt, who is also a co-founder and artistic director of the musical theater conference at the O'Neill Theater Center: "Our executive producer for Premieres, Ed Trach, is a regular visitor to musical theater workshops and readings around New York and elsewhere. Ed came to be about a year ago and said he was interested in supporting and promoting new works that were already well on their way to bigger productions but had not yet been seen by a New York audience." In contrast to other developmental programs, Haupt says, "Our primary purpose is to bring works that are far more than embryonic a little further along in their journey."
The three new musicals to be presented during Premieres' premiere season are: Heartland, with book and lyrics by Darrah Cloud and music by Kim D. Sherman, "the story of a mother and her three daughters who try to recapture the past as they confront the future" (May 25 at 2pm, May 27 at 8pm, and May 28 at 2 and 8pm); Richard Cory, with book, music, and lyrics by Ed Dixon, adapted from the Edwin Arlington Robinson (May 25 at 8pm, May 26 at 2 and 8pm, May 27 at 2 pm); and Song of the Turtledove, with a libretto by Noa Ain and music by Ain and Gerard Edery, freely based on the biblical Song of Songs and featuring a mixture of American classical jazz and Arabic/Jewish/flamenco music (May 31 at 8pm, June 1 at 2pm, June 2 at 8pm, and June 2 at 2pm).
Haupt says that Premieres has been gestating for some time. "It always takes a while to set up a not-for-profit corporation," she notes. "That's what we did over the past year. Meanwhile, we were formulating our mission, deciding on the kind of works we'd be looking for and the kind of presentations we'd like to do. We felt that 'less is more.' If a story could be told in space and light and communicate the material and the characters, we thought, that would be a fine way to start. In the future, we may look at more elaborate presentations but, this year, they'll be quite simple. Both Heartland and Richard Cory will be done with books in hand and piano accompaniment. Song of the Turtledove was written for an ensemble of three singers and three musicians, and that's what we'll have."
Charter Premiere memberships--including admission to all three readings as well as panel discussions, cabarets, workshops, and special events throughout the year--are available at $50 each through Smarttix at 212-206-1515 or through the website at www.smarttix.com. "We're hoping that the membership idea will generate a new audience," says Haupt. "And we're hoping that people who don't go away for the Memorial Day weekend will be looking for something to do to get in from the heat or the rain!"