Area residents will have a rare opportunity to witness a reading of a revised musical being evaluated for a possible return to the Broadway stage. Even more unique is the fact that the lyricist, Tony Award-winner Sheldon Harnick, and script writer Sherman Yellen will be in attendance along with representatives from the Rodgers and Hammerstein organization.
This reading of “Rex” is part of the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre’s 21st season and will be held July 31 at 1 p.m. in the Ellen Eccles Theatre and is free and open to the public.
“Here is your chance to witness the rebirth and revision of a work with the living authors of the highest level of achievement,” said Founding Director Michael Ballam. “Witnessing such an experience is usually limited to professional theatrical insiders.”
The musical will be fully performed, script-in-hand but with no costumes, lighting or sets. It is a chance to see how it is “playing” and if there should be any further adjustments or fixes in the script. A cast of 32 will bring the musical to life. Ballam will play the role of Henry VIII. The play revolves around Henry VIII’s life, his relationships with his wives, his search for a male heir and his struggle with the idea of whether a woman, his daughter Elizabeth, would be capable of ruling England.
The musical “Rex” was written by Sherman Yellen, with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick (who also wrote the lyrics for “Fiddler on the Roof”) with music composed by Richard Rodgers. It played on Broadway in 1976. Rodgers decided to pull the production in consideration of America’s bicentennial, but with the intent of bringing it back soon after. Unfortunately Rodgers died and the production has “languished for more than 35 years,” Ballam said.
Sheldon Harnick, Michael Ballam, Sherman Yellen and Director Maggie L. Harrer began meetings on the new script earlier in the year and have spent the last six months working on revisions. Now, the newly revised show is being tried out in Logan with a good chance of garnering a revival on Broadway.
Harrer, the director, explained, “We all work together diligently to find that mystical essence that just grabs the audience. That’s the fun of the work, that’s the excitement of the work.”
During the reading, scenes may be added or removed. The process is easier because there are no cumbersome costumes, lighting or staging. “It’s a really wonderful process of just focusing on the work. You get to really explore and take chances and find out what really works,” Harrer said. Part of the formula for success is having a live audience, she said.
Utah Festival’s 2013 season runs from July 10-Aug. 10 and includes 129 events with repertory performances of “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Otello,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “The Flying Dutchman,” as well as seven additional concerts, dozens of Academy classes, backstage tours, breakfast with the stars and other special events and activities.
In fact, Harnick will present a lecture July 30 at 10 a.m. He is a three-time Tony Award winner and a Pulitzer Prize winner. Harnick will be in residence in Logan for three weeks and has mentored Michael Ballam in the role of Tevye for “Fiddler on the Roof.”
The reading of “Rex” will be held July 31 at 1 p.m. in the Ellen Eccles Theatre, 43 S. Main St. For more information call 435-750-0300 ext. 3 or log on to utahfestival.org.