`Gentlemen of Verona' set for Center Stage

March 27, 2004|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

A rock musical and the national premiere of an award-winning British drama will be among the offerings at Center Stage for the 2004-2005 season.

In recent years, the theater's lineup has often included a Shakespeare play and a musical. Next season, it will have two in one when it produces Two Gentlemen of Verona, the 1972 Tony Award-winning rock musical with music by Hair composer Galt MacDermot and a book by John Guare and Mel Shapiro.

Reached in New York, artistic director Irene Lewis, who announced the two shows in a letter to subscribers, described the musical as "a delicious piece," that, like Hair, "just bursts with every color, size, shape of kid - and love."

In addition, the theater has secured the rights to the United States premiere of the British play Elmina's Kitchen, by Kwame Kwei-Armah. After last season's production at London's National Theatre, Kwei-Armah won the 2003 Evening Standard Award for most promising playwright.

"There are not too many [plays] that have that sock-punch that this one has," Lewis said of Kwei-Armah's exploration of urban violence, which focuses on three generations of black men in one family. Center Stage associate artist Marion McClinton will direct.

Lewis' letter also mentions 10 plays under consideration for the remaining four slots in the season. These range from Noel Coward's Hay Fever to two scripts that received readings in the theater's First Look series. The rest of the season is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks.

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