Asolo Repertory Theatre gave the press and others in attendance at the Mertz Theatre a sneak peek at its world premiere of Beatsville: The Beatnik Musical, on Tuesday morning. The show’s creators, composer/lyricist Wendy Wilf, book writer Glenn Slater (Tangled, School of Rock, Sister Act), director Bill Berry, choreographer JoAnn Hunter, musical director Kat Sherrell and orchestrator Steve Orich were introduced by producing artistic director Michael Donald Edwards.
The cast, led by Max Crumm as hopelessly square Walter, who yearns to be a part of the cool 1950s Greenwich Village beatnik scene, also took the stage to introduce themselves and perform a couple of numbers from the new show. Crumm has starred as Danny in the most recent revival of Grease on Broadway, along with playing Scott in Disaster! and off-Broadway roles in The Fantasticks and F#%king Up Everything.
He’s making his Asolo debut in the show, along with Lauren Marcus, who plays his equally square love interest, Carla. Sarasota resident Ann Morrison will play Walter’s landlord and Carla’s mother; other cast members play assorted uptowners, beatniks and tourists.
“We’re very proud to be presenting the premiere [in collaboration with Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre, of which Berry is producing artistic director],” said Edwards. Berry explained the appeal of the show, citing Wilf’s jazzy “vocalese” score, the “universal story of someone on the outside wanting to be on the inside” and adding simply, “it’s fun.”
Beatsville is based on the Roger Corman B movie Bucket of Blood, which Slater and Wilf felt was “the perfect property” to match Wilf’s concept of the score and their desire to do a musical about beats. The duo (who are married in offstage life) have been working on the show for over 10 years, but say the version Asolo Rep audiences will see is very different from the show they had even two years ago. “We’re psyched and ready to go,” said Slater.
Previews for Beatsville: The Beatnik Musical begin April 28, with opening night on May 6, and the production is slated to run through May 28. For tickets, call 351-8000 or go to asolorep.org; for a teaser, watch a short clip here: