Signature Theatre, the current recipient of the Tony Award® for Regional Theatre, presents the world premiere musical Sycamore Trees by Ricky Ian Gordon, composer of the acclaimed opera The Grapes of Wrath and the OBIE Award-winning Orpheus and Euridice, as well as the musicals My Life with Albertine and Dream True. Gordon's autobiographical setting of his family's struggles and triumphs over 50 years, Sycamore Trees will run May 18 - June 13, 2010 in the intimate playing space of the 276-seat MAX Theatre.
Sycamore Trees is the second part of Signature's "American Musical Voices Project" sponsored by The Shen Family Foundation. The American Musical Voices Project is the largest single musical theater commissioning and producing initiative of any U.S. non-profit theater.
The world premiere of Sycamore Trees will be staged by Steppenwolf Theatre member and acclaimed director Tina Landau, a frequent collaborator with Gordon. The production will feature seven outstanding Broadway actors: Farah Alvin (Nine, The Look of Love, Kuni-Leml), Marc Kudisch (9 to 5, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Bells Are Ringing; Signature's Witches of Eastwick, The Highest Yellow), Judy Kuhn (Les Misérables, Rags, She Loves Me; Signature's The Highest Yellow), Jessica Molaskey (Parade, A Man of No Importance), Matthew Risch (Pal Joey, Legally Blonde), Diane Sutherland (She Loves Me, 1776, Cats), and Tony Yazbeck (Gypsy, A Chorus Line, Irving Berlin's White Christmas). Tony Award winner Bruce Coughlin will provide orchestrations, with musical direction by Fred Lassen of Broadway's South Pacific and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
Eric Schaeffer, Signature Theatre's artistic director, stated, "Sycamore Trees marks Signature's second world premiere musical commission of the American Musical Voices Project and I'm thrilled for our audiences to witness the artistry of Ricky Ian Gordon and Tina Landau. It's a truly unique piece of musical theater and Signature is the perfect setting for it to be born."
Composer Ricky Ian Gordon says of his new work, "When my father came home from World War II in 1945, my family lived in a crowded tenement in the Bronx, poor and with bed bugs. Then my parents got the idea to move to the suburbs where the dream of life flowering in a clean and spacious environment promised to be the answer. It wasn't. This is the story of a family and what happened to them ... and music is its heartbeat and inner life." Dramaturg Nina Mankin collaborated with Gordon on the book.
Director Tina Landau stated, "In Sycamore Trees, an American family speaks directly to the audience as they tell, and re-live, their stories in the second half of the 20th century. The piece is very intimate, and deeply personal, yet it also has a historical sweep as it places these characters in the tumult of the times-the chaotic 60s, the pressurized 80s, and so on. It's exquisite-in its sense of longing and loss, and the profound ties that bind family together. Above all, the piece has a form which is completely unique-unlike any other show I can think of. It's highly inventive and idiosyncratic in its storytelling-constantly surprising, creating and breaking its own rules. The whole piece feels like a poem-some haunting combination of memory, music, and dream."
Working with Tina Landau on the creative team are Scenic Designer James Schuette, Costume Designer Kathleen Geldard, Lighting Designer Scott Zielinski, and Sound Designer Matt Rowe.
COMPOSER RICKY IAN GORDON
Composer Ricky Ian Gordon is the second recipient of the "American Musical Voices Project" Award to present a new work of musical theater on Signature's stage. His opera The Grapes of Wrath. written with librettist Michael Korie and commissioned by The Minnesota, Utah, and Pittsburgh Operas, premiered February 10, 2007 and was immediately called "The Great American Opera" by Musical America. It was recently performed in a concert version at Carnegie Hall in a sold out one-night-only event with an all-star cast and narrated by Jane Fonda. His Green Sneakers (Recording, Blue Griffin Records), commissioned by Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, was hailed a "masterpiece" in Opera Today and The American Record Guide. When Orpheus and Euridice (Recording, Sh-k-Boom) premiered at Lincoln Center as part of the Great Performers/New Visions Series, it won an OBIE Award, and the citation read: "One of the year's most moving theatrical events in any genre."
Born in Oceanside, New York and raised on Long Island, Gordon was in love with poetry and fascinated from an early age by all forms of opera and musical theater. He attended Carnegie Mellon University as a piano major, but soon realized that his true vocation was as a composer. After college he settled in New York City and quickly emerged as one of the most successful writers of a kind of vocal music that straddles the world of theater and art song. His unusual ability to find the musical core of a poem or lyric and express that essence in an appropriate musical style, has given his songs great appeal to singers of all styles and persuasions. Gordon's songs have been performed and/or recorded by such internationally renowned singers as Renee Fleming, Dawn Upshaw, Audra McDonald, Kristin Chenoweth, the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Andrea Marcovicci, Harolyn Blackwell, Betty Buckley, and many others.