From the sweep and pageantry of "The Three Musketeers" (in a brand new adaptation), and an anarchic, hilarious version of Shakespeare's "A Comedy of Errors" (guaranteed to alarm Shakespearean purists), to the regional premieres of two recent Broadway hits (one named, the other still being negotiated) - Pioneer Theatre Company's 1989-90 season shapes up as one that PTC Artistic Director Charles Morey is justifiably excited about.
The season was formally announced this past week during a press conference in the Pioneer Memorial Theatre lobby, with Salt Lake City Mayor Palmer DePaulis on hand to comment on the city's support of the arts and on PTC's positive impact on the community's cultural environment.The two regional premieres on the 1989-90 calendar are Neil Simon's "Broadway Bound" and another production still being negotiated but described as "an all-American musical based on Mark Twain's `The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.' "
Because the rights are still up in the air, Morey technically couldn't announce the name of the play - but the description leaves no doubt that he was referring to the 1984 Tony Award-winner, "Big River."
(Brigham Young University had announced "Big River" for its theater department's current season but was unable to obtain the rights. Ironically, BYU filled its vacant "Big River" date with "West Side Story," which opens PTC's 1989-90 season.)
Both the lectern and the refreshment table for the PTC reception were decorated with world globes surrounded by bouquets of flowers. Joseph Walker, Deseret News theater editor, and myself wondered what the significance of the globes were.
Then Morey announced that the theme for PTC's 1989-90 season will be "World-class theater . . . lives at the top of Salt Lake City's Broadway."
DePaulis explained that Third South was originally called Emigration Street but later became known - not quite officially - as Broadway, because of the Broadway Hotel. He said that, while formal renaming of city streets is on hold until completion of the enhanced 911 emergency program, it is expected that, ultimately, Third South will be renamed Broadway all the way from downtown to where it intersects with University Street - the location of PTC's "jewel at the top of Salt Lake City's Broadway."
Both Morey and DePaulis cited statistics which showed that doomsayers erred when they had predicted failure three years ago when PTC changed directions, producing fewer musicals and more solid drama. While season ticket sales that first year dropped, they've steadily increased since then - and single-ticket sales have soared.
The 1988-89 season's runaway hit has been "Cyrano de Bergerac" - so it's not surprising that another swashbuckler, the never-before-staged "The Three Musketeers," is on the docket for 1989-90.
Morey said total attendance this year is estimated at 110,000 patrons for 145 performances, compared to 84,483 patrons attending 141 performances the year before implementation of PTC's long-range plan (1985-86).
"People who said Salt Lake City would not support a major professional theater, and that Utahns would only pay to see frothy musical-comedies, were wrong," said Morey.
He said the potential exists here for the eventual evolution of a theater community comparable to Chicago or Seattle (the latter has eight Equity theaters - more than any other metropolitan area outside of New York) and predicted that Salt Lake City would be in the forefront of an American theater renaissance.
In one brief, surprising bit of news, Morey announced that, for the first time, PTC will mount a specially commissioned work during its following season (1990-91). Utah playwright David Kranes has been commissioned to write the original work for the Lee's Main Stage. Tentative title for the new work is "Anthem."
Kranes, who just returned from a trip to Europe, attended the PTC reception. He noted that he's been pacing the floor of the huge Pioneer Memorial Theatre stage, getting a feel for the space - a considerable departure from the more intimate venues where his earlier plays - such as "Salmon Run," "Cantrell," "Montana" and "Future Tense" - have been performed. (In just a couple of weeks, Salt Lake Acting Company will present his newest work - "1102" and "1103," two inter-related one-act comedies.)
But back to Pioneer Theatre Company's 1989-90 season. Here's the rundown:
- "WEST SIDE STORY" (Sept. 20-Oct. 7), considered by many to be the greatest achievement of the American musical theater. This marks the first time that the musical has been presented on the Pioneer Memorial Theatre stage.
- "THE THREE MUSKETEERS" (Nov. 1-18), a romantic adventure through 17th century France.
- "BLITHE SPIRIT" (Dec. 6-23), Noel Coward's classic comedy. ("It's one of my favorite plays," Morey told the crowd last week.)
- "BROADWAY BOUND" (Jan. 10-27), the regional premiere of the final work in Neil Simon's trilogy, recounting his early struggles in show business.
- "THE COMEDY OF ERRORS" (Feb. 14-March 3). This version of Shakespeare's classic is envisioned as "outrageous, anarchic and side-splittingly funny."
- "ST. JOAN" (March 21-April 7), George Bernard Shaw's rarely produced masterpiece.
- SEASON FINALE (May 2-19) will be a yet-to-be finalized musical. It could be the regional premiere of "the musical based on Huckleberry Finn's adventures," (i.e. "Big River") or, listed as an alternate option, Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Mikado."
Morey was also pleased to remind those attending the reception that, in another unprecedented move, PTC is reviving one of its most recent hits - Michael Frayn's madcap farce "Noises Off."
Although it played to packed houses during PTC's 1987-88 season, Morey said the revival is due to "overwhelming public demand."
After hearing lots of requests for the show, PTC included a poll in its programs for "Cyrano." In that survey, 90 percent of the respondents said they wanted "Noises Off" to be brought back this summer, so it will be staged as a "bonus" production June 2-17.
Theatergoers subscribing to PTC's "World Class Theatre" season will be offered a special discount on tickets for "Noises Off."
For tickets or further information about the 1989-90 season, call the PTC box office at 581-6961.