NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
With a sprained ankle curbing my ability to perambulate the theater scene for the last two weeks, the following column is a potpourri of coming theatrical events-April is the Fest month, but May is the month for theater in New Orleans.
April will end with our two leading community theaters, Rivertown Repertory Theater and Le Petit Theater du Vieux Carre, winding down their current seasons.
Rivertown continues to cater to its aging constituency with Earnest Thompson's On Golden Pond-noteworthy for being the filmic vehicle which brought estranged father Henry Fonda and daughter Jane Fonda together, with the approving eye of Katherine Hepburn. In Joe Warfield's production at Rivertown Charlotte Shully stands in for Ms. Hepburn, while Roy Dumont is the irascible Fonda Pere with Danon Dastugue as the obstreperous daughter.
Le Petit likewise caters to the GP coterie with yet another romp through Rodgers' and Hammerstein's overproduced The Sound Of Music. After the last musical fiasco at this venerable venue, let us hope and pray that the director, in this case Brandt Blocker (who also serves as music director) and technical director/designer Bill Walker have a more collaborative rapport. Mr. Blocker has certainly done his pre-production work with finesse having acquired the services of Liz Argus for the hit or miss role of Maria, to say nothing of Barbara Bernard as the Mother Abbess-at least we know we'll climb every mountain again with a real contralto.
Both of these shows will end the first week of May, along with the Jazz Fest, opening up the month, on May 7, to the final, and extra, bill of the Saenger Broadway Series-the blockbuster, anxiously-awaited touring megahit, Miss Saigon, which flies into the Theater of the Performing Arts, instead of the Saenger, because the Saenger, although more hangar like than the Theater of the Performing Arts, is nonetheless ill-equipped to house the show's major technical attraction, the helicopter that figures so heavily in the fall of Saigon and show's denouement.
No sooner does that helicopter fly the coop than we get, topping off the month like icing on a cake, the local premiere of the Off-Broadway musical comedy hit, Pageant, produced and directed by New Orleans' inimitable Carl Walker, beginning what is expected to be a long run on May 21, with two previews sponsored by the Krewe of Petronius (also May 22).
Miss Saigon, the six-year-old sensational and stunning musical by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg (Les Miserables & Martin Guerre), a reworking of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, tells the story of love and self-sacrifice between a young Vietnamese girl and an American soldier during the time of the fall of Saigon in 1975. In a society torn apart by the aftermath of war, the American dream becomes a symbol of salvation, and two people become the victims of fate.
Directed by award-winning Nicholas Hytner, with choreographer by Bob Avian, Miss Saigon unites the members of the Les Miserables design team, with scenic design by John Napier, lighting design by David Hersey, costumes by Andreane Neofitou and Suzy Bensinger and sound by Andrew Bruce.
In this Cameron Mackintosh touring production, the role of the Engineer, originated amid much clamor by Jonathan Pryce will also be played by an Occidental, Joseph Anthony Foronda, who recently appeared on Broadway in the role. Deedee Lynn Magno creates the role of Kim, the Cio-Cio-San to Will Chase's Pinkertonish Chris, with Raymond Patterson as John, Jacquelyn Piro as Ellen and David Kater as Thuy.
Carl Walker's production of the long-anticipated Pageant, to be presented by his All Kinds Of Theater, in association with the Contemporary Arts Center, where it will be ensconced in the Freeport MacMaRon Theater, will star local favorite Wess Hughes (who was so wickedly delightful in Mr. Walker's production of Ruthless) who, as the emcee, Frankie Cavalier,will be sans drag.
But his co-actors: Brooks Braselman, Miss Deep South, Russell Hodgkinson, Miss Great Plains, Douglas Park, Miss Bible Belt, Steve Sherman, Miss Texas, Ken Weatherup, Miss West Coast and Paul Soileau, Miss Industrial Northeast, as contestants in a beauty pageant, will be dragged out and gussied up by costume designer Roy Haylock, who will swath them in appropriate attire: from cocktail to evening wear with a swimsuit or two thrown in for (hopefully) good measure.
ASIDE: Nothing like getting a jump on the season.
The Rivertown Repertory Theater will hold auditions for Edward Albee's Pulitzer prize-winning play, A Delicate Balance, on Tues., Apr. 22 & Wed., Apr. 23 at 6:30 pm.
Director Joe Warfield is interested in seeing actors and actresses who can play 50 to 60 years of age. Also actresses in the mid-thirties age range. Auditioners will read from scripts that will be provided. A Delicate Balance will run Nov. 6 thru 30, 1997.