Dead Writers’ OH, COWARD! Aug. 26-Sept. 18 at the Athenaeum Theatre
Dead Writers Theatre Collective presents an elegant yet intimate celebration of Noel Coward’s life, work and times with Oh, Coward! This sumptuous two-act musical revue runs August 26 through September 18 at The Athenaeum Theatre. “This was one of the last Noel Coward shows staged during his lifetime,” states DWTC Artistic Director Jim Schneider. “Originally devised for Off-Broadway by Roderick Cook, it’s a wonderful cabaret approach. It features two men and a woman covering Coward’s favorite songs and scenes from his plays and musicals.”
Theatre critic Kenneth Tynan once said that to see the whole of Noel Coward, his public and private personalities conjoined, you needed to see him in a cabaret. “The best way to go back in time to meet Coward is in a cabaret setting,” states Schneider. “He toured around the world to entertain British troops during World War II and later wrote several successful revues. His 1955 Las Vegas cabaret act was so successful that CBS engaged him to write three 90-minute television specials. To several generations, Noel Coward was the very personification of wit, glamor, and elegance. There seemed to be nothing he couldn’t do.”
When you enter the 80-seat second floor theatre at The Athenaeum, you’ll be carried back to a chic Art Deco cabaret. “Our approach is to bring the characters of Coward’s world back to life through his words and music,” states director and choreographer Cameron Turner. “With material as rich as this, you need to serve it in simple yet elegant style and humor.”
“The small stage, cabaret setting is perfect,” states musical director Gerald H. Bailey. “It offers the intimacy that allows us to present the subtleties of this wonderful score.” Bailey to this, his first work with the Dead Writers Collective, an impressive background that includes his work as an actor, director, musical director and composer in nearly 200 area productions.
Collective member Joanna Riopelle is onstage along with newcomers Michael Pacas and Ian Rigg. Riopelle has not only outstanding theatre credentials but is also a well-loved cabaret and opera singer who has performed at Davenports, the Noble Fool and Hot House as well as with Light Opera Works, Chicago Chamber Opera and Skylight Opera Theatre.
Oh, Coward! marks Pacas’s first production with the DWTC. He has entertained audiences in Chicago for almost three decades in productions ranging from slapstick to Shakespeare. He received outstanding reviews last season his portrayal of the strange neighbor, Victor Velasco, in Barefoot in the Park.
Ian Rigg, a 23-year-old graduate of St. Xavier University, brings a charming sense of onstage style as well as remarkable vocal range to his first DWTC production. He can easily glide from baritone up through the tenor range.
Oh, Coward! is the second production in the DWTC “Mad about the Boy” 2016 season. “Our season’s theme actually comes from one of the songs in this show,” states Schneider. “We’re celebrating love – all kinds of love. The Company successfully opened this year’s season with high marks for The Importance of being Earnest.
OH COWARD! will be staged at The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm, special Wednesday evening performances August 31, September 7 and 14 plus and Sunday Matinees at 2:30pm. Single ticket price for all shows is $40 at the Box Office — 773-935-6860. Dead Writers Theatre’s productions are Jeff Eligible.
Dead Writers Theatre Collective is dedicated to producing works either by or about dead writers. They are the only group of directors, designers, actors, playwrights and educators who focus solely on the writer’s original voice rather than imposing contemporary interpretations of his/her work. Their goal is to provide audiences a chance to understand the original work through its own uniquely beautiful aesthetics. For more information, visit www.deadwriters.net