It received nominations for 5 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and 3 Drama Desk Awards. Even so, here’s a musical that is mostly a memory and therefore a bit of a gamble for the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Company. A Class Act, by Edward Kleban, lyricist of A Chorus Line, will be performed at The Unicorn Theatre by Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Company. Previews begin July 11 with an official press opening on July 14 at 8pm and closing on August 4.
There’s an interesting backstory too about its writer. Edward Kleban was probably the most successful failure in Broadway history. Such are the ways of show business: Kleban’s lifelong dream was to compose Broadway scores; while his gifts were widely acknowledged, his shows never got on. Finally, after years of frustration, he reluctantly agreed to write only lyrics for an unpromising project staged by Michael Bennett, titled A Chorus Line. You know the rest: A Chorus Line became the hit that defined Broadway for a generation of theatergoers. That’s when Kleban’s troubles really began; paralyzed by his success, bitter that his music had been overlooked, driven by titanic neuroses, he sabotaged every subsequent project to which he became attached. When he died, much too young, in 1988, he left behind a legacy of hundreds of unheard songs.
Thanks to the Berkshire Theatre Group you are going to hear some of the best of them. Obviously, this is not the stuff of your typical tears-and-laughter backstage musical. But from Kleban’s bittersweet life his longtime companion Linda Kline and actor-director Lonny Price have fashioned A Class Act. Taking the format of an unproduced, autobiographical Kleban show, Light on My Feet, it tells the tale of a Broadway baby who hit the jackpot only once, a fabulously self-defeating character whose life was arguably ruined by success. Even more improbably, A Class Act is moving and funny, a celebration of music, friendship, and musical theatre.
To help continue and enhance the life of Edward Kleban’s work, Linda Kline, author of the book for A Class Act, will be collaborating with director Robert Moss on Berkshire Theatre Group’s production. According to director Robert Moss, when collaborating, “All kinds of material comes to life that enhances our productions. Everyone is collaborating in an open spirit of generosity. We are all coming together, and one of the things I say, is that there are no turf issues. Collaboration liberates everyone and what you get is a treasure trove of creativity with no preconceived ideas of what it should look like or feel like. Linda has helped to ground this so we are not describing a world that is not Ed Kleban’s.”
Tickets to A Class Act are $45, preview tickets are $35. Contact the Stockbridge Campus Ticket Office at 83 East Main Street, by calling 413-298-5576 or the Colonial Ticket Office at 111 South Street, Pittsfield by calling 413-997-4444. Tickets can also be bought online at www.berkshiretheatregroup.org. Ticket Offices are open Monday-Friday 10am-5pm, Saturdays 10am-2pm or on any performance day from 10am until curtain. All plays, schedules, casting and prices are subject to change.
The cast includes Rachael Balcanoff as Lucy; Ross Baum as Ed Kleban; Marie Eife as Mona; Brian Scannell as Charley, Marvin Hamlisch, Dr. Nodine and Jean-Claude Chevray; Eddie Shields as Bobby and Michael Bennett; Robbie Simpson as Lehman Engel; Tessa Hope Slovis as Felicia Lipshitz; and Anya Whelan-Smith as Sophie.
Robert Moss (Director) Bob Moss founded and ran Playwrights Horizons for its first ten years. Subsequently, he was the artistic director of the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, New York for fifteen years while at the same time teaching and eventually running the Playwrights Horizons Theatre School, affiliated with NYU. He was artistic director of Syracuse Stage for twelve years. He began his artistic director career running the Barr Albee Wilder Playwrights Unit in 1971. Prior to that, he was a freelance director at theaters across America. In the early sixties he was a stage manager, culminating that career as Production Stage Manager of the illustrious APA Repertory Company in residence at the Lyceum Theater on Broadway. He has directed over two hundred plays, some favorites being Angels in America, Romeo and Juliet, Man and Superman, Lieutenant of Inishmore, Room Service, and You Can’t Take it With You. He just completed a production of Speaking in Tongues this Spring and will be directing The Cherry Orchard in the Fall.
Mark Gionfriddo (Musical Director) was introduced in 2011 to Berkshire Theatre Group audiences as musical director and pianist for the first Musical Mondays series at The Colonial Theatre. He has also served as a pianist for recent BTG productions of The Who’s Tommy, In the Mood and Babes in Arms. Mark’s regional musical directing credits include I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (Capitol Rep/Albany), Some Enchanted Evening and Beehive (CityStage/Springfield), Always Patsy Cline (Theatre Project), Cabaret and Jacques Brel is Alive and Well (MHC Theatre). Garrison Keillor, Mitzi Gaynor, Al Martino and the Young@Heart Chorus are just a few of the many artists whom he has accompanied. His choral and instrumental compositions and arrangements have been premiered in Boston, NYC, New Orleans, Nashville, DC, and on NPR’s “Performance Today” and “Says You!” Mark is a member of the Music Department faculty at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA.
Michael Callahan (Musical Staging) is a rising Senior at Elon University earning his BFA in Musical Theatre. Last summer, Michael assisted the Directors and Choreographers for the MUNY’s 2011 Summer Season. He was also part of the Hangar Theatre’s 2010 Lab Company, performing in Man of La Mancha and Kill to Eat, and choreographing Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. Other choreography credits include She Loves Me, Many Sparrows, and A Grand Night for Singing (Elon University).
Rachael Balcanoff (Lucy) has previously appeared in BTG’s production of A Christmas Carol as Mrs. Lucy Fred, and Finian’s Rainbow as an Ensemble member. As a 2011 graduate of Westfield State University she has had the joyful opportunity to be challenged with such roles as Electra in An Oresteia, Polly Peachum in The Beggar’s Opera, and more.
Ross Baum (Ed Kleban) NY: West Village Musical Theatre Festival. Regional: Rent and Little Women at Syracuse Stage, Guys & Dolls and Charlie Brown at Grandstreet Theatre in Helena, MT. Other favorites include The Cradle Will Rock, Cabaret, Room Service and Trapped: not another teen musical, an original musical for which he wrote the music and book. BFA, Syracuse University.
Marie Eife (Mona) Regional: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (Susan) at Syracuse Stage. Room Service, King Lear and Much Ado at The Theatre at Monmoth. Showplace Ice Cream Parlor at Surflight Theatre. Educational: A New Brain (Rhoda) at Syracuse University. This past spring Marie graduated with a BFA in musical theatre from Syracuse University.
Brian Scannell (Charley, Marvin, Dr. Nodine, Jean-Claude) spent last season as an Acting Apprentice and debuting in Eric Hill’s production of The Who’s Tommy. Brian recently received his BA in Theatre Arts from Westfield State University performing in productions such as Hamlet, The Deputy and Nicholas Nickleby.
Eddie Shields (Bobby, Michael Bennet) is currently receiving his MFA in Acting at Brandeis University. He was last seen in Berkshire Theatre’s A Christmas Carol as Young Scrooge. Past roles include: Tartuffe (Damis), Punk Rock (William), The Comedy of Errors (Ant. Syracuse), The Last Days of Judas… (Judas) and Billy Redden (Billy).
Robbie Simpson (Lehman) International: As You Like It (Orlando) at The Globe Theatre in London, England. NYC/Off-B’Way: Spring Awakening (Hanschen) at Roy Arias, and Punchlines and Pregnant the musical at The Broadway Comedy Club. Favorite regional: Rent and Almost, Maine at Papermill Theatre: Lost In Yonkers, Miss Saigon, Inherit the Wind, Over the Tavern, and The Sunshine Boys at the Majestic Theatre; The Sisters’ Rosensweig and The House of Blue Leaves at New Century Theatre; West Side Story (Tony) and Fame (Nick) at Courthouse Center/Arts. Television appearances include NBC’s Smash and 30Rock; The Chiller Channel’s Can You Survive a Horror Movie? and numerous commercials. Robbie holds a BFA in Acting from Syracuse University and will be one of seven actors in the USD/Old Globe Graduate MFA Acting program this fall.
Tessa Hope Slovis (Felicia) Previously at BTG (in the 2011 summer Acting Apprentice program): The Who’s Tommy, Good News. Theatre: Neil Simon’s The Last Of The Red Hot Lovers, A Secret Garden, The Music Man (Shawnee Playhouse), The Cherry Orchard (Columbia University), Las Meninas (Columbia, NYC Debut), Oh What A Lovely War (British American Drama Academy). Television: Breaking Bad, Law and Order SVU, ED. Tessa is currently a rising senior at Barnard College at Columbia University pursuing dual degrees in Theatre and Anthropology. She recently returned from studying at British American Drama Academy in London and is an alumna of the Paper Mill Playhouse Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory.
Anya Whelan-Smith (Sophie) Previously at BTG: Babes in Arms. Current Theatre Major at Barnard College where past credits include Evelyn in The Shape of Things and Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew, upcoming: Eurydice in Eurydice.
A Class Act
Music and lyrics by Edward Kleban
Book by Linda Kline and Lonny Price
Originally directed on Broadway by Lonny Price
A Class Act was originally produced by Manhattan Theatre Club and previously developed by Musical Theatre Works
directed by Robert Moss
musical direction by Mark Gionfriddo
musical staging by Michael Callahan
With scenic design by Brett J. Banakis, costume design by David Murin, lighting design by Solomon Weisbard and sound design by Brendan Doyle.
July 11 Wednesday 7pm (Preview)
July 12 Thursday 8pm (Preview)
July 13 Friday 8pm (Preview)
July 14 Saturday 2pm
July 14 Saturday 8pm (Opening/Press Night)
July 16 Monday 8pm
July 17 Tuesday 8pmJuly 18 Wednesday 7pm
July 19 Thursday 8pm
July 20 Friday 8pm
July 21 Saturday 2pm & 8pm
July 23 Monday 8pm
July 24 Tuesday 8pm
July 25 Wednesday 7pm
July 26 Thursday 8pm
July 27 Friday 8pm
July 28 Saturday 2pm & 8pm
July 30 Monday 8pm
July 31 Tuesday 8pm
August 01 Wednesday 7pm
August 02 Thursday 8pm
August 03 Friday 8pm
August 04 Saturday 2pm & 8pm