Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lost Lady with a Violin



Lost Lady with a Violin

Lovers of new musicals will have an opportunity to enjoy a one-night only world premiere staged reading of Lost Lady with a Violin on June 22nd at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. The event is part of the Los Angeles Festival of New American Musicals and features an original story, book and lyrics by Laurie Whitaker, and music by Laurie Whitaker and Jeff Lass.

In 1944, a beautiful young concert violinist from Philadelphia yearns for love and someone who understands her great love of music. She finds the man of her dreams - Adam, a decorated surgeon in the U.S. Army during World War II. But there is a major obstacle to their love - Ellie is white, Adam is black.

Whitaker says the idea for the musical came unexpectedly. “A few years ago I woke up in the middle of the night, grabbed a pencil and wrote a song called ‘Lost Lady with a Violin.’ I imagined an old African American man playing a violin under the trees waiting for an old white woman to come outside of an old farmhouse and play…Sultry breeze moves the moss and leaves on the old oak trees, shows a rusty roof and a tattered house goin’ back to seed, and every night through the countless years we play beneath the trees.....”

Cut to 2006, the year Whitaker and her family moved to Los Angeles from Kansas City to pursue dreams that had previously been put on hold. Like many, she started out writing pop songs. An A&R man from Warner Brothers said to her at a seminar, “Your music is great, but nobody wants that kind of music anymore…it’s like something Barbra Streisand or Celine Dion used to sing…have you thought about writing for Broadway?”

With the seed of an idea beginning she says, "That night I went home and pulled out my song ‘Lost Lady with a Violin’ and began to ask ‘who are these people, what is their story?’ Once I started writing, the characters came alive and the songs wrote themselves. I became Ellie and Adam and Young Joe and Mama Georgia, and the book, lyrics and music poured out.

My wonderful husband of 35 years, Chris, started doing historical research and we learned about the black heroes of World War II, the doctors, the GI Bill and how it helped educate generations of black children and more.

At that point I realized I needed a great pianist. Though I ‘hear’ the music I don’t play. Luckily God (and Craigslist!) sent me the incredible Jeff Lass, who listened to my songs, did gorgeous arrangements, added wonderful contributions to some of the melodies and brought the music to life. I will be forever grateful that he trusted in a new unknown writer and believed in my work.

We did our first staged reading for friends and family in December of 2008 at the Greenway Court Theatre. I then spent another year and a half rewriting, adding and deleting songs, and had lots of wonderful talented people read the script - Calvin Remsberg, Michael Kerker, Kay Cole, Billy Porter are a few. Eventually I sent it to Linda Shusett at the Festival of New Musicals, who said she loved the show, and invited me to be part of the 2010 Festival.”

Jeffrey Polk is directing the June 22nd reading with Ron Colvard providing the musical direction. The cast features Charlo Crossley, Michael Shepperd, Candice Nicole, Jay Donnell, Justin Michael Wilcox, Harrison White and Susan Grace, along with Donald Webber, Jr., Eve Sigall, Theresa Ford, Siri Lorece, Jayme Lake, Christian Campbell, Harrison White, Malynda Hale, Joe Hart, Noel Orput, Terrance A. Thomas, Blesst Bowden and Ashley Arnold.

Tickets are $10 (cash or check at the door), but you may want to call for reservations ahead of time 310-987-6527 or email
lauriewhitaker@hotmail.com. More info about the show is available at www.lostladywithaviolin.com/.

El Portal’s Main Stage Theatre is located at 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, Ca. 91601 and has easy parking across the street.


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Comedy Faceposted by Ellen Dostal, MusicalsInLA @
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