Hal Prince making a point in an "Intimate Conversation"last fall at Musical Theatre Works
Hal Prince making a point in an "Intimate Conversation"
last fall at Musical Theatre Works
The first set of "Intimate Conversations" with noted musical theater performers, directors, and writers, hosted by Musical Theatre Works last year, went so swimmingly well that a follow-up series was more or less a foregone conclusion.

In the fall of 2001, such worthies as Hal Prince, Elaine Stritch, Audra McDonald, Joe Masteroff, Stephen Schwartz, and Jerry Zaks participated in the series, and this year's lineup is no less impressive. Here it is:

Monday, May 13: Jason Robert Brown and Daisy Prince on "The Making of The Last 5 Years"

Tuesday, May 14: Jerry Bock, Joseph Stein, and Sheldon Harnick on "The Making of Fiddler on the Roof"

Wednesday, May 15: Bebe Neuwirth

Thursday, May 16: Mandy Patinkin

Monday, May 20: Michael Greif, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Anthony Rapp on "The Making of Rent"

Tuesday, May 21: Michael Mayer, Jeanine Tesori, and Dick Scanlan on "The Making of Thoroughly Modern Millie"

Wednesday, May 22: Betty Buckley

Thursday, May 23: William Finn

According to Randy Lutterman, executive director of Musical Theatre Works, "It's largely an informal setting [for the series] because we are an informal gang. And the space is so small that the talks end up being quite relaxed. We have an interesting cross-section of theatergoers, students of musical theater, and others, so it's not like 'They talk, we listen' in any way. It really seems to be more of a conversation and there's a definite freedom to the moderating that allows our guests to go off on tangents."

Lutterman says that she and Lonny Price, MTW's artistic director, had the idea for the series "because it's the kind of thing you can only do in New York. There are so many people actually working in musical theater here and we realized what a great resource they are. We thought we should open the doors to the public and tell them, 'Come and hear what these people have to say.' Then, of course, September 11 occurred and we had to look at each other and decide if we wanted to move forward with this. But we thought, 'Let's do it anyway. Let's show people that we're still here and functioning below 14th Street.' Our first program was the second week in October."

The informal nature of the conversations has led to some memorable moments. "Elaine Stritch quizzed the audience," Lutterman relates, "and when no one had the answers to some of her questions, she sort of looked out and said 'Who are you people? Don't you ever go to the theater?' And one of my favorite remarks came from Nicholas Hytner. He said something crazy like, 'I've been working in America for a while now and I'm realizing that the people who go to the theater are old Jewish women and young gay men--and, for some reason, they become involved in each other's lives.' It was hilarious."

Lord only knows what quotable quotes will emerge from this year's series. Each of the "Intimate Conversations" begins at 7pm (except for the Rent program, which will start at 6:30) at Musical Theatre Works, located at 440 Lafayette Street at Astor Place. Tickets are priced at $25 and seating is limited; all proceeds go to MTW's Resident Writers Program. Phone 212-677-0040, ext. 312 for information.