Talkin' BroadwayV.J.

Prodigal Arrives at the York

2002 is said to be the year of the Aussie in Hollywood, with the work of many Australian actors and directors receiving a large share of Oscar nominations. It is also the year of the first production of an Australian musical to be presented in New York, with the York Theatre Company's current resident, Prodigal, by Australian creators Dean Bryant (book and lyrics) and Mathew Frank (music). A contemporary take on the well-known parable of The Prodigal Son, Prodigal is the story of Luke Flannery and his small-town Australian family. The desire to avoid taking a larger part in working the family business and his family's reaction to his coming out drives Luke away. More than a story of coming out, Prodigal is a story of coming home, of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Prodigal was previously produced in Melbourne in January 2000 and received rave reviews. Now Dean and Mathew are all of 25 years old and they have tweaked and fine-tuned the current production with York Artistic Director Jim Morgan and a cast of five. Joshua Park (Tom Sawyer) appears as Luke, with Alison Fraser (Secret Garden, Romance, Romance, March of the Falsettos) and David Hess (Annie Get Your Gun) as his parents Celia and Harry. Christian Borle plays two roles, that of Luke's brother Kane and Luke's lover Zach, and Kerry Butler appears as Luke's friend Maddy.

Mathew Frank and Dean Bryant
Counting Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe, Stephen Sondheim, Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty as musical influences, Dean says Company has been his largest inspiration as a writer. Mathew became interested in musicals through the work of Stephen Schwartz, and Godspell in particular, and is a fan of newer American musicals such as Parade, Titanic, and Ragtime. Mathew also serves as the show's musical director and supports the cast musically with his piano accompaniment.

Though the trip is a long one, family and friends have traveled to New York to see the team's New York debut. Dean and Matt hope Prodigal will have a long regional life in the U.S. after its limited run at the York, and everyone hopes for a new cast recording. Copies of the Australian cast recording of the show when it was called Prodigal Son, which includes Dean Bryan playing Luke Flannery, are available for sale at the York's home theater, the Saint Peter's Theatre at 619 Lexington Ave.

Joshua Park, David Hess, Alison Fraser, and Christian Borle will join Kerry Butler in the cast of Prodigal

Next up for this ambitious team is a return to the homeland for a production of their new show The Virgin Wars as part of a festival for emerging arts, The Next Wave Festival, in Melbourne. The half hour satirical musical is based on the idea of celibacy clubs in high schools. It was inspired by a Rolling Stone article about Britney Spears, in which she was mentioned as being a representative of this new movement.

Prodigal runs through March 31 with performances at 8:00pm Tuesday through Saturday, 2:30 on Saturday and Sunday and a special 7:30 performance on March 31. There will be no performance on Friday, March 29. Saint Peter's Church, 619 Lexington Ave at 54th Street (in the Citigroup Center). Tickets are available at Telecharge or at the York Box Office.

Up next at the York Theatre Company is the return of the popular "Musicals in Mufti" series with three Richard Rodgers musicals (By Jupiter, Androcles & the Lion, Me & Juliet) being presented from April 5-21. As the York continues to bring new musicals to New York, they welcome the world premiere of The Lady in Penthouse B with Tovah Feldshuh and Liz Callaway, Book & Lyrics by Peter Napolitano, Music by Matthew Ward, beginning April 30. More information is available at the York's website.

- Ann Miner

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