Thursday, May 26, 2011

ACT Presents TALES OF THE CITY, 6/1 - 7/10

Thursday, May 26, 2011; Posted: 12:05 PM - by BWW News Desk

According to the SF Gate, San Francisco audiences are excitedly anticipating the arrival of the musical, ARMISTEAD MAUPIN'S TALES OF THE CITY that will open June 1 at the American Conservatory Theater.  First serialized in The Chronicle, Armistead Maupin's bittersweet novel "Tales of the City," is set in San Francisco and consists of interlaced stories of dewy-eyed newcomers and dissolute social climbers, gay coming-out stories and paisley-clad hippies. The story captures the era of the mid-'70s in San Francisco, complete with disco and drugs, fern bars and pickup night at the Marina Safeway, as well as feelings of hope, heartbreak, innocence and laughter.

The ACT production, aimed at Broadway but with no up-front commercial backers or specific New York plans at the moment, is a big-budget undertaking at $2.5 million. Jeff Whitty, author of the ebullient "Avenue Q," wrote the book. Fellow "Avenue Q" alum Jason Moore ("Shrek: The Musical," an early collaboration on "The Book of Mormon") is directing. The glam-rock band Scissor Sisters signed on to write the music and lyrics.  The set, which features a lofty set of stairs and landings at 28 Barbary Lane, is by Broadway vet Douglas Schmidt. The cast includes plenty of names with major theatrical street cred. They include Judy Kaye as Anna Madrigal, Betsy Wolfe as Cleveland transplant Mary Ann Singleton, Wesley Taylor as the book's gay lead Michael "Mouse" Tolliver and Mary Birdsong as bisexual Mona Ramsey.

ACT artistic director Carey Perloff committed to the project after attending an early workshop. "I loved Armistead's book so much," she told SF Gate. "There are so many Mary Anns who come here from Cleveland and everywhere else and say, 'This is my story.' "

Whitty, 39, had what he calls his "lightning-bolt moment" when he watched the "Tales" miniseries on a plane to London almost five years ago. "This is how a musical begins," he said of the book's opening, in which 25-year-old Mary Ann arrives in San Francisco. "You put a character into a new environment and see what happens to her." Director Moore, 40, agreed, comparing the story's musical-friendly premise to that of "My Fair Lady" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

Songwriters Jake Shears, 32, and John Garden, 36, said they jumped at the chance to write their first musical. "Especially this one," said the voluble Shears. "I read the book when I was 13, before I even knew I was gay, and loved it." He and Garden got to work right away, writing "Tales" songs between Scissor Sisters shows in London, New York, Berlin and elsewhere. The first number they wrote, "Plus One," is still in the show.

Whitty had the daunting task of whittling his 180-page script down to something that could be managed on stage and enjoyable to an audience. "The hardest part was getting the flow," Whitty told SF Gate. "I see this as one 2 hour and 40 minute song."

To view this story in full, click here

ARMISTEAD MAUPIN'S TALES OF THE CITY's previews end next Sun. The show will run from June 1 to July 10 at the  American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco. $40-$127. (415) 749-2228. For more information, please visit:

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