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WILKOF, RABEN LEAD REPRISE'S A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM

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by NYC News Desk

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The 2009-2010 season of Reprise Theatre Company continues with "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," 1962's Tony-Award-winning Best Musical, March 16 to 28 at UCLA's Freud Playhouse. Directed by David Lee, the production's book is by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Tony-Award-nominee Lee Wilkof, who originated the part of Seymour in "Little Shop of Horrors," stars with Larry Raben, one of the original cast of "Forever Plaid." Wilkof has appeared continuously in New York and on Broadway in revivals of "Sweet Charity," "She Loves Me," "Kiss Me, Kate," and "The Odd Couple," and recently spent two seasons as The Wizard in "Wicked." He is also known for his recurring roles on "Law and Order," "Ally McBeal," and "Max Headroom." Larry Raben played Leo Bloom on Broadway and in Las Vegas in Mel Brooks' "The Producers," and also starred
off-Broadway and in Los Angeles in "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change."

The cast features veteran comic actors Michael Kostroff, Alan Mandell, Ron Orbach and Ruth Williamson. The ensemble of "Forum" features Annie Abrams, Stuart Ambrose, Bradley Benjamin, Erich Bergen, Matthew Patrick Davis, Meg Gillentine, Tonya Kay, Laura Keller, Mercy Malick, Russ Marchand, Candace Olsen, and Justin Wilco.
Director David Lee, one of the area's most important, creative, musical theatre talents, recently directed "Camelot" at the Pasadena Playhouse, in a noteworthy production featuring a company of eight actors. "Forum" features two musical theatre talents new to Reprise. Choreographer Peggy Hickey, who recently staged the dances for "My Fair Lady" starring Kelsey Grammer and Kelli O'Hara for the New York Philharmonic, is regular choreographer for Goodspeed Opera House and Sacramento Music Circus, and Steve Orich, Tony-Award-nominee for Best Orchestrations for the 2006 Tony-Award-winning Best Musical "Jersey Boys," serves as musical director.

Reprise Theatre Company is headed by Artistic Director Jason Alexander and Producing Director Susan Dietz.

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" will preview on Tuesday, March 16 and will open on Wednesday, March 17, and continue through Sunday, March 28 at UCLA's Freud Playhouse.

Single tickets are available for "Forum" online at www.reprise.org or through the UCLA Central Ticket Office at 310/825-2101.

Director David Lee is a nine-time Emmy-Award-winning director, writer and producer for television. On stage, he has directed productions of "Light Up the Sky," "Do I Hear A Waltz?," "110 in the Shade," "Diva," "Can-Can" (at Pasadena Playhouse), "How I Fell In Love" (Williamstown Theater Festival), "On The 20th Century," "Assassins," "Company," "A New Brain," "Applause," "Working," "Zorba," "Elegies" (at Reprise!), and staged readings of "The New Hope Memorial" (at the Mark Taper Lab) and "They Knew What They Wanted" (at Roundabout Theatre Company). In 2007, he directed the acclaimed production of "South Pacific" at the Hollywood Bowl with Reba McEntire and Brian Stokes Mitchell. His writing for the theater includes a concert adaptation of "Can-Can" (Encores! with Patti LuPone) and an entirely new book for "Can-Can," which he directed at the Pasadena Playhouse (Ovation Award-Best Director).

Lee is the co-creator of "Frasier" and "Wings," which he also wrote, produced and directed. He served as writer/producer for "Cheers" and directed multiple episodes of "Everybody Loves Raymond." In addition to 18 Emmy nominations, he is the recipient of the Directors Guild Award, Golden Globe, Producers Guild Award, GLAAD Media Award, British Comedy Award, Television Critics Association Award (three times), the Humanitas Prize (twice) and the Peabody.

Choreographer Peggy Hickey choreographed "My Fair Lady" for the New York Philharmonic starring Kelli O'Hara and Kelsey Grammer, "The Most Happy Fella" for New York City Opera, "Oklahoma!" for Paper Mill Playhouse," "On the 20th Century," "Brigadoon," and "A Little Night Music" for Goodspeed Opera House, and many musicals at Sacramento Music Circus.

Musical Director Steve Orich has worked as a successful musical director, orchestrator and composer in Los Angeles and New York for over thirty years, receiving a Tony-Award nomination for Best Orchestrations for the 2006 Best Musical "Jersey Boys," whose cast album won a Grammy as well. Off-Broadway and in regional theatres, he has orchestrated "Snapshots," "Personals," "Hamelin," "Potholes," "A Good Swift Kick," "Paint Your Wagon," "You Never Know," and "Can-Can." Other Los Angeles productions include Michael Feinstein's ""Great American Songbook" at the Mark Taper Forum which he orchestrated and conducted and Bernstein's "Mass" at the Hollywood Bowl for which he did vocal direction. Most recently, he orchestrated "Turn of the Century" for Tommy Tune at the Goodman Theatre. He orchestrated albums for Helen Reddy, Judy Kaye, Debbie Gravitte, Petula Clark and Deborah Gibson; his orchestrations have been performed by the Boston Pops at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the White House and around the world."

More about "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"
Inspired by the farces of the ancient Roman playwright Plautus, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," with book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, earned several Tony awards, including best musical and best book in its original 1962 Broadway run.

After writing the lyrics for "West Side Story" and "Gypsy" (to music of Leonard Bernstein and Jule Styne respectively), "Forum" gave the then 32-year-old Stephen Sondheim his first opportunity to write the music and lyrics for a show, marking his third consecutive hit show.

The late Burt Shevelove was involved in eleven Broadway musicals - among them were "No, No, Nanette," the Tony Award Best Musical (1967) "Hallelujah, Baby," and "Forum." Before "Forum," Larry Gelbart, one of American's most celebrated comedic writers, began his career in the Golden Age of Television, writing for Jack Paar, Bob Hope, Red Buttons, and Sid Caesar, working alongside Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Woody Allen. After "Forum," he created the series "M*A*S*H," earning Peabody and Emmy Awards, followed by the film "Tootsie," and the musical "City of Angels." Up until his recent death, he was also a contributing blogger to The Huffington Post.

While the setting and the characters were vaguely Roman, the show really is an homage to American burlesque and a kind of outrageous stage comedy, which has given its various stars some of the funniest and sharpest material to ever be part of a Broadway musical.

The original production, which opened in 1962 at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre), played 964 performances - still the longest Broadway run for a Stephen Sondheim-written musical. The original cast included Zero Mostel (Pseudolus) and Jack Gilford (Hysterium).
Mostel and Michael Crawford (as Hero) appeared in the 1966 film version. In 1974, Phil Silvers headlined and won a Tony for this 156-performance revival. A Broadway revival opened in 1996, for which Nathan Lane won a Tony as Pseudolus. Whoopi Goldberg was among his replacements, necessitating some minor book adjustments to accommodate the gender switch.

About Reprise Theatre Company

Since its inception in 1997, Reprise Theatre Company has been a focus of the Los Angeles musical theatre community, producing productions of great American musicals, and a wide variety off concerts, staged-readings, special events and outreach programs.

In May 2007, Jason Alexander became Artistic Director and he was joined by Susan Dietz, Producing Director.

Since its inaugural production of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Promises, Promises," which starred Mr. Alexander, Reprise has brought to the stage vibrant productions from all eras of American musical theatre including the Gershwins' "Of Thee I Sing" and "Strike Up the Band," Cole Porter's "Anything Goes," and Rodgers and Hart's "The Boys from Syracuse" and "Babes in Arms," as well as Richard Rodgers' later "No Strings." The "Golden Era" has been well represented - Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel," Burton Lane and E.Y. Harburg with "Finian's Rainbow," Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe with "Brigadoon," Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green with "On the Town" and "Wonderful Town," Irving Berlin with "Call Me Madam," Robert Wright and George Forrest with "Kismet," both of the Richard Adler and Jerry Ross musicals "The Pajama Game" and "Damn Yankees," Johnny Mercer and Gene dePaul with "Li'l Abner," Jule Styne with "Bells are Ringing," and Frank Loesser with "The Most Happy Fella."

Musical theatre reached a new peak of popularity in the sixties, along with new creative talents, and Reprise has presented shows by many of them including Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick with "She Loves Me," Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt MacDermot's "Hair," Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone with "1776," Charles Adams and Lee Strouse with "Applause," Stephen Schwartz with "Pippin," Cy Coleman with "On the Twentieth Century" (libretto by Betty Comden and Adolph Green) and "City of Angels" (lyrics by David Zippel), Jerry Herman with "Mack and Mabel," and three Stephen Sondheim musicals - "Company," "Sweeney Todd," and "Sunday in the Park with George."

Many of the great stage performers working today, as well as those who reside primarily in Los Angeles, have appeared in Reprise shows including Scott Bakula, Christine Baranski, Brent Barrett, Orson Bean, Jodi Benson, Stephen Bogardus, Dan Butler, Len Cariou, Carolee Carmello, Vicki Carr, Anthony Crivello, Jason Danielely, Lea DeLaria, Cleavant Derricks, Manoel Feliciano, Rodney Gilfry, Kelsey Grammer, Harry Groener, Bob Gunton, Sam Harris, Gregory Harrison, Mimi Hines, Judy Kaye, Jane Krakowski, Marc Kudish, Judith Light, Rebecca Luker, Maureen McGovern, Joey McIntyre, Donna McKechnie, Andrea Marcovicci, Marin Mazzie, Karen Morrow, Burke Moses, Kelli O'Hara, Ken Page, Robert Picardo, David Hyde Pierce, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Roger Rees, Charles Nelson Reilly, Cathy Rigby, Alexandra Silber (in her American debut, reprising her role as Julie in "Carousel", which caused a sensation in the West End), Douglas Sills, Rex Smith, Steven Weber, Marisa Jaret Winokur, Lillias White, Fred Willard, and Rachel York.

Source: BroadwayWorld.com'


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