New musicals can often be a tough sell, but Chad Rabinowitz, now in his fourth year as Producing Artistic Director at the Adirondack Theatre Festival, isn't worried about empty seats this summer at the Charles R. Wood Theater in Glens Falls.
"I actually did ask myself, 'am I doing too many musicals?' but the board seemed to think that musicals were popular," said Rabinowtiz, who is opening the ATF season today with a premiere of Burt Bacharach's new musical, "Some Lovers." "Musicals are expensive to produce, they're quite an undertaking and not necessarily what we do a lot of here. So this season is something completely different for us, but I also thought it was a great opportunity to showcase some wonderful new works."
Of course, a new work by an old classic like Bacharach, still writing at age 90, is sure to attract an audience, and later in the summer (July 5-14) Rabinowitz and ATF will showcase Broadway veteran and Niskayuna native Gabriella Pizzolo, now 15, in "Loch Ness," another new musical about a young girl (Pizzolo plays the lead), who discovers herself and the legendary Loch Ness Monster.
One more interesting wrinkle Rabinowitz is throwing into the ATF season is a production of another new musical, "Front Page Flo," by George Pinney, Larry Kass and Sara Kass. While it's a new musical, it is set in the 1940s and is about a young female reporter, Flo, who is investigating Russian spies.
"It's been in the works for five years so it's not because of what's going on in this country right now," said Rabinowitz. "The reason I like it is because I thought to myself, 'what would it be like to see a classic for the first time?' Imagine being a part of that audience that saw 'Hello Dolly!' or 'Bye Bye Birdie' for the first time. I wanted to give our audience an opportunity to see a classic for the first time. 'Front Page Flo' is set in the 1940s and it may have an old style, but it has a wonderful new feel to it.
"I didn't start out by thinking I was going to do a bunch of musicals this year," continued Rabinowitz. "I just wanted to get the best new work, and the best new work I came across were musicals."
"Some Lovers" is a romantic musical, a collaboration between Bacharach, who had eight No. 1 hits on the pop charts between 1967 and 1986, and Steven Sater, who won two Tony Awards for "Spring Awakening" (Best Book and Best Musical Score). Sater has been in Glens Falls working on the show, while Bacharach has been in touch daily from his home in California.
"This is not just a jukebox musical for us," said Rabinowitz, referring to "Some Lovers." "This is a big deal. It's a major new piece for the theater and it's starting right here. I've been sitting in on some of the rehearsals. If you're a Burt Bacharach fan you're not going to be disappointed."
"Some Lovers" is a story about an older couple who are transported back in time to when they were younger. It is Bacharach's first new score in 50 years. He's won six Tonys and is a three-time Oscar winner.
Sandra DeNise, who has performed on Broadway in "Kinky Boots" and "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder," leads the cast, while sharing the stage with Emily Schultheis, Chris Hoch and Andrew Mueller. All are professional actors based in New York City.
"Some Lovers" concludes its ATF run on June 23. "Loch Ness," set in the Scottish Highlands, begins its 10-day run on July 5.
"I'm putting my money on 'Loch Ness' being a very big hit this summer," said Rabinowitz. "We're working with a company from New York City that does some very impressive puppetry, and our Loch Ness monster is something to see."
"Loch Ness" will also have Pizzolo as a drawing card. Now finishing up her freshman year at Niskayuna High School, Pizzolo has played the title character in "Matilda the Music" and was "Small Alison" in "Fun Home," both on Broadway.
"I had no idea she was coming to auditions, and I had no idea she was local," said Rabinowitz. "I knew of her work and she was very impressive in the audition."
"Loch Ness" is being directed by Marshall Pailet, who directed last year's hit at ATF, "Nikola Tesla Drops the Beat."
"Front Page Flo," which according to Rabinowitz may be the biggest musical ever produced by ATF, will be directed and choreographed by Pinney, who won an Emmy Award and was Tony-nominated for his 2001 musical, "Blast." The show will run Aug. 3-9.
Rabinowitz will direct the season's third show, "The Jedi Handbook," (July 20-27), a coming-of-age story about a "Star Wars" fan who uses "The Force" to help him deal with the struggles of growing up. Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte originally wrote the play in three parts, but has now condensed the story for this show.
"It's a heartfelt and hysterical human story that is just as great if you're a fan of the films or if you've never seen them," said Rabinowitz. "I can't say enough good things about this show."
For a complete schedule and a rundown of all the events happening at ATF this year, visit www.atfestival.org.
WHERE: Adirondack Theatre Festival, Charles R. Wood Theater, 207 Glen St., Glens Falls
WHEN: Opens Thursday and runs through June 23; performances are at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday; 2 p..m. matinee on June 20
HOW MUCH: $45-$34
MORE INFO: www.atfestival.org or call (518) 480-4878