Visitors to our production of Baritones UnBound: A Celebration of the UnCommon Voice of the Common Man may recognize a set element from our Spring production of Maurice Hines’ Tappin’ Thru Life.
These lighted wings were designed for us by Alexander Nichols, with whom I have done more than 20 productions over the last 20 years. I asked Alex to come up with a re-usable element that could instantly connect audiences to a thread in the programming that we intend to develop over time: the music-based theater event. Regular attendees are going to have a chance, over time, to see many significant entertainers exploring new works of music theater here at ArtsEmerson. These evenings will be light on their feet. You won’t find crashing chandeliers or flying superheroes in this series. But you will find major contemporary music theater artists developing new work for the world stage. And when you attend such an event you will know it immediately because Alex’s design will great you each time.
There’s a very popular series in New York that is the inspiration for what we’re up to here: City Center’s Encores Series. Encores bills itself as “Great American Musicals in Concert”. These evenings focus on classic and lost musicals that are ripe for reconsideration. The production values are light, with a focus on a few key elements needed to reveal the riches of an under-appreciated work. Many significant Broadway revivals and rediscoveries have been launched by this series’ careful curation and producing.
What you’ll see here is more properly billed as “New Musicals in Concert.” With our commitment to supporting the generative process for artists and ensembles, this is our approach to fostering both the form and the community of American music theater.
Baritones will begin its touring life in the new year, following this ArtsEmerson launch. Tappin’ is already enjoying a big life, with Maurice and the Manzaris touring nationally this season. Runs in DC (Arena Stage), Atlanta (Alliance Theater), Los Angeles (Wallis Annenberg Center) and Cleveland (Cleveland Playhouse) will keep the guys busy all year.
Maybe it merits a new tag line (and perhaps even suggests a sponsor…) for new music theater projects: “ArtsEmerson gives you wings!”