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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  LATEST NEW YORK NEWS

at the Arizona Theater Company

By David Lefkowitz

  Songwriters Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann

Long gestation periods are the norm for new commercial musicals, which undergo endless backers concerts, workshops and tryouts on the way to a New York berth. Even by current standards, however, the journey for Mask has been a doozy.

Eight years ago, producer Barry Brown was working with songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Well on two projects: a revue of their hits, and their musical adaptation of the 1985 film, Mask.  The revue didn't happen - though Mann and Weil did bring their own act off-Broadway with They Wrote That? in 2004. Meanwhile, Mask turned into one of those "never happened" shows. Brown had told Playbill Online in 1999, "The first draft is finished, and we're in the process of talking to prospective directors. We're in such early stages at this point, I really don't have a time frame for the production yet."

That was an understatement. Two years later, Brown was off the project, and Watt-Dobie Productions had stepped in. By March 2001, director Gabriel Barre was attached to The Mask, though the events of that year scotched a lot of Broadway-bound projects.

Years of inactivity followed, with the assumption that The Mask was a casualty of Broadway economics, Mann/Weil's busy schedules and the usual stumbling blocks that face new tuners.

And yet... November 2007 will change all that. In a co-production between the Arizona Theater Company and the Pasadena Playhouse, Mask will make its debut in Tucson, AZ. After a Nov. 24-Dec. 15 run there, Mask moves to ATC's Phoenix venue Dec. 31-Jan. 20, 2008, with Pasadena's run set for March-April.

Richard Maltby, Jr., a Tony-winner for staging Ain't Misbehavin', will direct Mask, which has a pop-rock score in keeping with Mann/Weil's Brill-Building roots. The married duo penned such classics as "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," and "On Broadway."

Based on a true story and developed into an Oscar-winning screenplay by Anna Hamilton Phelan (who also penned the musical's book), Mask follows a fifteen-year-old boy with a severe facial deformity. His hard-edged mother helps him cope, but she needs as much help as he does. He also meets a nice girl who falls in love with what's behind the "mask." Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, the 1985 film starred Eric Stoltz, Cher and Laura Dern.

ATC artistic director  David Ira Goldstein told the Arizona Daily Star that the involvement of outside producers on the Mask musical will lead to a larger-scale production than usual for the venue. "The producers are...paying for things that wouldn't be part of our budget - longer rehearsals, bigger the scale they need."


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