Talkin' BroadwayV.J.

Overtures at The Lark
by Nancy Rosati

The Lark Theatre Company has announced the premiere season of its Overtures Series — four one-night-only concert presentations over the next eight months. The series will debut on Monday, September 30th at The Village Theater with Earth Girls Are Easy, a new musical based on the film script by Julie Brown, Charlie Coffey and Terrence E. McNally (not the Terrence McNally who's currently represented on Broadway.)

The evening will be a fundraiser for the Lark.Charlie Coffey is penning the stage adaptation with Michael Herrmann of Perth, Australia, a longtime fan of the film who first approached him four years ago with the idea of turning it into a stage musical. Kristin Chenoweth came on board a year ago and they presented a staged reading last September 16th. Charlie was thrilled with Kristin's performance. "She was unbelievable. I lost my heart that day and I haven't seen it since. This is the part she was born to play."

Reaction to the reading was very positive, but the timing was wrong with the uncertainty following the September 11th attacks. Broadway has since shown signs of recovery so Charlie feels Earth Girls will now find potential backers. He has been heartened by the response so far. Last year's reading brought calls from Broadway producers and he's hoping this year's production will spark even more interest.

Joining Kristin will be an A List cast that includes Hunter Foster, Marc Kudisch and Deven May, along with Roxanne Barlow, Lisa Capps and Steve Wilson. Julie Brown will reprise her role from the film. According to Charlie, "It's not a great big dance show like Hairspray. It's more of an intimate show —think Mamma Mia meets Blondie with shaved aliens. It's a different experience. It has a cinematic quality to it. It's like watching a movie up close, with the people really there." Everyone will be in costume; they will have props, theatrical lighting and a five piece band. The only thing missing will be the sets.

"The exciting thing about this is that the score is a combination of original songs from the film that I wrote with Julie and great songs from the ‘80s that we found. Some are obscure and some are great classics. Kristin Chenoweth is going to be singing Blondie, the B-52s and Devo. She's really excited about that. It's the most amazing thing to hear her sing this stuff. You've heard her sing ‘Glitter and Be Gay' and now you're going to hear her sing ‘Whip It'!

"This is the first musical we know that's showcasing ‘80s music. The ‘60s is being brilliantly done by Hairspray. Mamma Mia has successfully capitalized on ABBA's contribution to ‘70s music. Michael Herrmann and I are mid-Boomer to Generation X and this is our nostalgia music. Devo and ‘Whip It' aside, there are also softer sounds from the ‘80s and more lyrical things. There are some beautiful ballads that we have a lot of confidence in. It will feel like original material because people don't know a lot of these songs. And when you boil it down, it's really just a romantic comedy."

Charlie is quick to point out that this evening would not be possible without the support he's received from the Lark Theatre Company. "I cannot say enough wonderful things about the Lark Theatre. It's just the most awesome organization. Director John Eisner is the nicest person I've ever met in show business, apart from Dolly Parton. He's been so incredibly supportive. What he's doing for New York and playwrights in general is tremendous. I don't know anybody else whose heart is in it as much as his. I'm a huge lifelong fan of John's."

Giovanna Sardelli will direct this production of Earth Girls Are Easy. She's also the producer of the Overtures Series, which she explains is a way to educate people about project development. The Lark is a developing organization and they have several projects that are ready to move to the next level. "We wanted to find emerging and undiscovered voices. We came up with four fabulous projects that highlight what happens when people get in a room and have artistic support so they can really hash out ideas and talk about why they're doing what they're doing. Each one will be unique. We're always going to try to do something special since it's an event.

"Earth Girls Are Easy has a life of its own from the movie. Since it's the debut of Overtures, we're hoping to set a tone. We're hoping that each of the four plays has something magical and unique about it in addition to the beauty of the material."

In December they will present Children's Letters to God by Stuart Hample, who wrote the original best-selling book, with music by David Evans and lyrics by Douglas J. Cohen. They're looking to cast a mix of Broadway children and children from the public school system for the production. The director is Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj whom the NY Times recently called "one of the most talented young theater directors in New York."

In February, they have Don Imbroglio, an opera buffa. "It's a really funny musical theater piece that straddles both worlds. The authors came out of the NYU musical theater writing program. Lyrics are by Matt Boresi and music is by Peter Hilliard. They're recent graduates and I worked with them on that play. It's basically The Sopranos set to music."

Their final production in May is called The Arthur Kopit Project. The Lark Theatre is known for its Playwright Advisory Board and they plan to take advantage of that fact. "We're looking at spending the evening with a mix of playwrights, trying to come up with something really creative about their development, such as the scenes that didn't make it into their plays. We'd like to have some of our playwright advisors like Christopher Durang and David Henry Hwang help us create that evening. It will be an evening that highlights development in a really fun way."

Tickets for the Overtures Series can be purchased individually or as a subscription. Standard tickets for one show cost $75 each. Gold tickets are $250 and include premium front orchestra seating and a pre- or post-show party with the cast and celebrity host. Platinum Tickets of $500 apiece include the party, "best in house" seats and an autographed script. Packages are available for combinations of tickets. The post-show party for Earth Girls Are Easy will be sponsored by Mars 2112.

Visit the Lark/Overtures webpage for more information. Read more about The Lark in this earlier feature article.

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