Become “Bewitched” as PAL JOEY opens at Ark Rep tonight

PalJoeyThe Arkansas Repertory Theatre kicks off its 2013-2014 season tonight with a musical that is already generating national buzz.
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s Pal Joey has been reimagined by Tony winner Peter Schneider.  He and Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp have assembled a stellar cast and creative team to bring this classic tale to a new life.  The Rodgers and Hart songs are woven into a new book by Patrick Pacheco based on the stories of John O’Hara.
After previews earlier this week, the production opens officially tonight and runs through September 29.

Edgy for its time, Pal Joey is perhaps best known for the 1957 film version starring Frank Sinatra. Director Peter Schneider’s production breathes new life into this classic tale and brings a modern day relevance to the story that unfolds amidst this richly romantic score.“Arkansas Repertory Theatre is the perfect environment for the artistic collaborative process required to reinvent a musical,” says Schneider. “I am thrilled to partner with Arkansas Rep and Bob to present the world premiere of this exciting new version of Pal Joey.”

Peter Schneider is the Tony Award-winning producer of the internationally acclaimed Broadway musical The Lion King. He produced the award-winning documentary, “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” about Disney animation from 1984-1994, a decade within his 17-year tenure at the company where he served as President of the animation department and, later, as Chairman of the studio.

A new score has been enhanced with other memorable songs from the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart catalog, such as “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Sing for Your Supper,” and “Glad To Be Unhappy” intermingled with gems from the original 1940 show like “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “I Could Write a Book.” Also included from the original 1940 score is the song “What is a Man?” This Pal Joey answers that question in the most provocative and unexpected ways, exploding on stage with timeless jazz favorites, stunning tap dance numbers and plenty of sparkle while exploring morality, race, class and the timeless relationship between power and sex.

The cast is led by Clifton Oliver in the title role.  Playing the women vying for his attention are Erica Hanrahan-Ball and Theatre World Award winner Stephanie Umoh.  Jonas Cohen plays an added complication to the mix.  Others in the cast are Danielle Erin Rhodes, Jeffrey Johnson II, Elise Kinnon, Jordy Lievers, Joel Pellini, Ian Jordan Subsara and Matthew K. Tatus.  Michael Reno serves as the Musical Director and leads the band accompanying Joey.

Joining Schneider, Pacheco and Reno in the creative team are Tony nominated choreographer Dan Knechtges, scenic designer David Potts, costume designer Rafael Colon Castanera, props designer Lynda J. Kwallek, lighting designer Michael J. Eddy and sound designer Allan Branson.

Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evening performances are at 7 p.m., Friday, Saturday evening performances are at 8 p.m. Sunday Matinees performances are at 2 p.m.