The Catholic University of America

Oct. 11, 2011

CUA to Stage Bernstein’s Rarely Performed On the Town

For the first time in a decade, Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town will be performed in the Washington, D.C., area with a full symphony orchestra. Catholic University’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music will stage the production Friday, Oct. 28, through Sunday, Oct. 30, in Hartke Theatre.

“The show is not performed often because it needs exceptional comedic singer-actors, a large orchestra, and skilled dancers to handle the eight dance episodes,” says N. Thomas Pedersen, head of musical theatre and musical director of the production. “We are expecting our music students to not only sing and act, but to grow as dancers as they learn this historic piece. Many music schools do not offer the level of dance training needed to mount this production.”

Quoting Humphrey Burton’s biography Leonard Bernstein, Pedersen says, “The show was written by young people to be performed by young people.”

On the Town was the brainchild of Oliver Smith who was impressed with American choreographer Jerome Robbins’ 1944 ballet Fancy Free. He encouraged Bernstein and Robbins to expand it. The musical introduced several popular and classic songs, among them "New York, New York," "Lonely Town," "I Can Cook, Too," and "Some Other Time." The story follows three American sailors on a 24-hour shore leave in New York City during wartime 1944. Each of the three sailors becomes enamored of a particular woman — and of the city itself.

When it opened in the 1940s, The New York Times praised the show as “the freshest and most-engaging musical show to come this way since the golden days of Oklahoma.”

“This production of On the Town will demonstrate the high level of both our musical theatre students and our programs in classical music,” says Grayson Wagstaff, dean of the music school. “The work is not only one of the most complex dance features in the history of Broadway, it is also a great score for our orchestra. The music reveals how Bernstein borrowed sounds of jazz as well as influences from many of the great composers of classical music in the 20th century.”

Catholic University’s production will be directed and choreographed by Pauline Grossman, with assistant choreographer Maurice Johnson — dance teachers who have been recruited for the school’s music theatre program.

In conjunction with the production, Mark Horowitz, CUA musical theatre lecturer and archivist of the Bernstein Collection at the Library of Congress, will deliver a Studio X lecture on Monday, Oct. 24, at 4 p.m. on “The Secret History of On the Town,” in Ward Hall’s John Paul Hall. The presentation will include live excerpts of the CUA performance. A widely published author, Horowitz is a leading authority on research in musical theatre.

He will also deliver the talk, “Some Surprises About Bernstein’s On the Town as Discovered in the Leonard Bernstein and Peggy Clark Collections of the Library of Congress,” on Oct. 27, at 12:35 p.m., in Ward Hall, Room 211.

DETAILS: Performances will take place Friday, Oct. 28, through Sunday, Oct. 30, in Hartke Theatre. Shows will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for seniors, students, and CUA alumni, faculty, and staff. For information, directions, and to charge tickets call 202-319-5416. Individuals requesting accommodations for disabilities should contact cua-access@cua.edu.

MEDIA: Reviewers wishing to cover the musical should contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.

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ARTISTIC DIRECTION:
Pauline Grossman, director and choreographer, dance coordinator: Grossman is involved in the building of a revitalized dance program where the students are not only given an intense training in music, but also a strong foundation in dance so they are able to compete in the professional world of musical theatre. Grossman also serves on the faculty at Montgomery College. She has worked for Theatre Lab’s School for the Dramatic Arts Summer Musical Theatre Institute for Teens and teaches for Signature Theatre’s Stage One Workshop, where she instructs students in the stylings of musical theatre dance. Along with teaching, Grossman is a professional director and choreographer for many area theaters.  Some of her credits include: Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and The Witches Brew at Adventure Theater; Treemonisha, Iolanthe, The Pirates of Penzance, Babes in Toyland, Merry Widow, and Patience at The Washington Savoyards; The Stephen Schwartz Project and You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown at No Rules Theatre Company; Dear World at American Century Theater; and Marry Me a Little at The Bay Theatre Company. Grossman studied at Boston University’s Summer Theatre Institute, served as assistant to Jean McCullough, head of the dance department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and received her B.A. in drama from the University of Tennessee.

N. Thomas Pedersen, musical director, head of musical theatre: Pederson has pursued a career as a singer, conductor, producer, and teacher. His career has included performances in Mame (Young Patrick), Sound of Music (Rolf), My Fair Lady (Freddie), Hello Dolly (Cornelius), Oklahoma (Curly), Carousel (Billy), The Pirates of Penzance (Pirate King), and She Loves Me ( Head Waiter) with numerous stock, regional, and national companies. He has been featured on stage with celebrated stage performers Ruby Keeler, Ethel Merman, George Rose, and Vicki Lawrence. Pedersen studied with Martial Singher at the Music Academy of the West and Eva Likova at the University of Michigan, where he did his graduate studies. In 1982, he made his operatic debut with the Michigan Opera Theater and in a 10-year span sang with the Detroit Symphony, the June Opera Festival, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival on National Public Radio, WFNT Radio in Chicago, and WQRX Radio in New York City. He has been a soloist with conductors Maurice Abravanel, Leonard Bernstein, Antal Dorati, and Robert Shaw. He has music directed for many well-known television stars including Gary Sandy (WKRP in Cincinnati), John McCook (The Bold and the Beautiful), David Canary (All My Children), Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie), and Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop. As artistic director of Theatre Ten Ten, New York's oldest off-Broadway Theater, Pedersen produced and music directed more than 20 shows, and has been music director at the Long Beach Civic Light Opera in Long Beach, Calif.; the Library Theater in Warren, Pa.; and the University of Michigan Opera Theatre. He has worked in Branson, Mo., with Eleanor Dicks as co-producer and musical supervisor for legendary country singer Mel Tillis and his daughter Pam Tillis. He is currently artistic director of the Washington Savoyards, associate artistic director of Summer Dinner Theatre at Montgomery College, and the director of music at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Kensington, Md.

Maurice Johnson, assistant choreographer, adjunct dance instructor: Johnson received his bachelor's degree in communications from the University of Kentucky with a minor in Spanish. He studied and performed with a variety of notable dance institutions including the Lexington Ballet, Alvin Ailey Dance Repertoire, Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, and North Atlanta Academy School of Dance. He appeared in the HBO movie Miss Evers’ Boys and performed in the U.S. Olympic ceremonies. He has worked with the production teams of Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Madonna, and Paula Abdul among others. Johnson is also on the faculty at Joy of Motion Dance Center in Washington, D.C.

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