A Grand Tour

Last night, our theatre weekend started with the production of The Grand Tour at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. It was our first time at this theatre, and we’ll be back. The performance space is wonderful, and based on their production history, they have a lot of productions that we like. This was also an opportunity to meet a fellow LJ fan of theatre, shutterbug93 (the only other person on LJ to list “Pasadena Playhouse” as an interest!). We had dinner with her before the show, and our seats were together. She’s a delightful young woman, and we look forward to seeing her the next time she’s in town.

On to the show. The Grand Tour is one of Jerry Herman‘s lesser known musicals. First produced on Broadway in 1979, the production at the Colony was the first full scale profession production since then. The book was by Michael Stewart (of Barnum and I Love My Wife fame) and Mark Bramble. Mr. Bramble and Mr. Herman are still alive, and worked with the Colony on this production, revising the score slightly and reworking it for a small stage and small cast. It worked, in my opinion. In fact, last night, Mr. Herman was in the audience to see the results.

The story of The Grand Tour is based the original play Jacobowski and the Colonel. It tells the story of a Polish Jew who connects with a Polish Colonel as the Nazis are invading France in 1941. The Jew (Jacobowski) has been escaping and running all his life, but is still her. The Colonel, after picking up his lady friend, has to deliver names of members of the Polish resistance to England. Jacobowsky helps him do this, while each teaching the other something about life. A more detailed synopsis can be found here, but the scene in the convent was changed to a scene in a brothel, with a song originally removed from the show (“I Want To Live Each Night”) [recorded on the Miss Spectacular album] added.

This production starred Jason Graae as S.L. Jacobowsky, John Ganun as Col Tadeusz Beleslav Stjerbinsky, and Tami Tappan Damiano as Marianne, and featured (in multiple roles) John Racca, Cynthia Beckert, Michael Dotson, Marsha Kramer, Gordon Goodman, Robyn Cohen, and Peter Musante. It was directed by Evan Weinstein, choreographed by Peggy Hickey, with musical direction by Jeff Rizzo.

So, what did I think of this production. Contrary to the reviews on Talking Broadway or the LA Times, I really enjoyed this production. All of the triple-threat (singing, dancing, and acting) cast were wonderful. I had no trouble with John Ganun’s accent. I enjoyed the inventive staging. If the musical is to be made more cost effective and to reach more audiences, cost effective staging is a must. This permits regional theatres to keep a show alive, unlike the spectacular-laden special-effect hogs that often lumber on to the stage. This show was redone right. Most folks aren’t familiar with the music from this show. It is the typical upbeat Jerry Herman score, with many echoes of La Cage, his next work.

After the theatre, there was a short discussion with the cast and crew (Mr. Herman, alas, didn’t stay around for this discussion). This is where we learned how they reworked the show for this production, how many rehearsals there were, the potential future for this production. This was really neat!

Today is a day of board gaming, after which we toddle off to Pasadena to see Open Window at the Pasadena Playhouse. Sunday is Pump Boys and Dinettes at the El Portal. Expect to see reviews of both.

[Crossposted to cahwyguy and socal_theatre]