Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Mar. 7-Apr. 6: André De Shields, Adam Chanler-Berat, Kyle Beltran, Kevin Mambo and More Set for DTC’s World Premiere Musical The Fortress of Solitude, A Co-Production with The Public Theater

 André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Dallas Theater Center’s world premiere new musical The Fortress of Solitude, a co-production with The Public Theater in New York City, begins previews on March 7 and runs through April 6. Opening night is Friday, March 14 at 8:00 p.m. The Fortress of Solitude is based on the nationally best-selling novel of the same name by 2005 MacArthur Fellow Jonathan Lethem. The musical is conceived and directed by Daniel Aukin, with a book by Itamar Moses, and music and lyrics by Michael Friedman. Tickets to The Fortress of Solitude, are on sale at www.DallasTheaterCenter.org and by phone at (214) 880-0202.

Aukin has previously directed critically acclaimed productions at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company, Lincoln Center and Manhattan Theatre Club.

“The notion of adapting this gorgeous novel into a musical was terrifying and thrilling and, finally, inescapable,” says Aukin. “I met with Jonathan Lethem and, in a shockingly wonderful show of faith and generosity, he granted permission to give this idea a go.”

Friedman, the composer and lyricist of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, was also drawn to the story. “It’s always tricky to find material that really wants to be musicalized,” he says. “Jonathan’s novel is full of music, both imagined and remembered.”

Friedman and Moses adapted the novel together. “It has always been a kind of recursive process of responding to each other, supporting each other, following each other in whatever direction feels most useful and effective,” says Moses.

The result is a heartbreakingly beautiful tale of the childhood friendship between Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude, set against the backdrop of the musical landscape of the end of the twentieth century. It is a story of 1970s Brooklyn and beyond – of black and white, soul and rap, block parties and blackouts, friendship and betrayal, comic books and 45s.

Adam Chanler-Berat, who originated the role of Henry in Broadway’s Next to Normal and of Peter in Broadway’s Peter and the Starcatcher, plays the role of Dylan Ebdus. Kyle Beltran, who recently starred in Tarell McCraney’s Choirboy at Manhattan Theatre Club, and who also appeared in the Broadway production of In the Heights, is Mingus Rude. The boys, both abandoned by their mothers and left in the care of difficult fathers, bond over comic books, LPs, and graffiti. Emmy Award®-winning and Tony Award®-nominated actor Andre De Shields comes to Dallas Theater Center for the first time ever as Barrett Rude Senior, Mingus’ grandfather. De Shields has appeared in countless Broadway productions including The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and The Full Monty. Kevin Mambo, who appeared as the title character in the Broadway production of Fela! and in the national tour of The Book of Mormon as Mafala, plays Barrett Rude, Jr., Mingus’ father and the lead singer of the soul group the Subtle Distinctions.

DTC Brierley Resident Acting Company member Alex Organ, recently in Fly By Night and A Christmas Carol, plays Dylan’s father Abraham. Local musical theater star Patty Breckenridge plays the roles of Rachel, Dylan’s mom, and Mrs. Lomb. Etai Benshlomo from the Broadway production of Wicked appears as Arthur; Nick Christopher from the Broadway production Motown as the neighborhood bully Robert; Jeremy Dumont from DTC’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor® Dreamcoat and A Christmas Carol as Gabe; Carla Duren from the Broadway production of 110 in the Shade, and Dallas Theater Center’s Give it Up!, is Lala and Abby; local actress Alison Hodgson, who has appeared on stage at Circle Theatre and Jubilee Theatre, plays Liza; Helen Hayes Award nominee Jahi Kearse appears as Henry and Raf; and local actress Traci Lee, who appeared in DTC’s production of Cabaret, plays Marilla. Britton Smith, who has appeared at Lincoln Center; Akron Watson, who has appeared locally at Dallas Theater Center, Theatre Three and WaterTower Theatre; and Juson Williams, from Encore’s The Wiz round out the cast as the members of the Subtle Distinctions.

The Fortress of Solitude marks the return to Dallas of legendary set designer, Eugene Lee, for the first time in more than two decades. The three-time Tony Award®-winning designer was DTC’s resident designer from 1984-1991. His work at DTC included legendary productions of All the King’s Men, Galileo and The Tempest, as well as his design for the Arts District Theater, where DTC produced productions from 1984-2005, when it was torn down for the construction of the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Lee’s many national credits include serving as the resident scenic designer for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” since its inception, and his groundbreaking designs for Broadway musicals, including Wicked, Sweeney Todd, and Candide.

Tyler Micoleau returns to DTC as lighting designer for The Fortress of Solitude. His previous DTC productions include A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Who’s Tommy, among others. Making her DTC debut is Jessica Pabst (The Whale and Moses’ Nobody Loves You) as costume designer. Also returning to DTC is Tony Award®-winning sound designer Robb Kaplowitz (Fela!), who previously designed DTC’s It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman.

Southern Methodist University alumnus Kimberly Grigsby, who was the music supervisor for DTC’s It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, returns to Dallas to be the show’s musical director. Grigsby’s recent Broadway credits include Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and Spring Awakening. Rounding out the creative team is Camille A. Brown as choreographer. Brown is the artistic director and choreographer of the award winning Dance Company, Camille A. Brown & Dancers.

The Fortress of Solitude is an emotionally moving musical filled with breathtaking songs and beautifully crafted characters,” says DTC Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty. “It is an honor to welcome back to Dallas so many long-time friends and collaborators for this production, including Eugene Lee, a man who helped create this organization’s artistic identity and whose work has served as a constant source of inspiration for Dallas theatergoers for several decades.”

Tickets for The Fortress of Solitude are on sale now. Ticket prices start at $15 and are available online at www.DallasTheaterCenter.org or by phone at (214) 880-0202. The Fortress of Solitude opens with previews on Friday, March 7 at 8:00 p.m. with a Pay-What-You-Can performance. Tickets to this performance will be available for purchase online at www.DallasTheaterCenter.org beginning Monday, March 3. Any unsold tickets to the PWYC performance will be available for purchase at the Wyly Theatre box office the night of the show beginning at 6:30 p.m. DTC’s Come Early sponsored by Wells Fargo will take place one hour before every performance and will be led by Alex Organ. Patrons will have the opportunity to learn about the play prior to viewing the production. DTC’s Dr. Pepper Snapple Stay Late will take place after each performance. Patrons will have the opportunity to engage with artists, learn about the production and share insights about the play in a lively discussion, which will be moderated by Alex Organ. Details for Come Early and Stay Late are available online.

ABOUT DALLAS THEATER CENTER:
One of the leading regional theaters in the country, Dallas Theater Center (DTC) performs to an audience of more than 120,000 North Texas residents
annually. Founded in 1959, DTC is now a resident company of the AT&T Performing Arts Center and presents its Mainstage season at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, designed by REX/OMA, Joshua Prince-Ramus and Rem Koolhaas and at its original home, the Kalita Humphreys Theater, the only freestanding theater designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty and Managing Director Heather M. Kitchen, DTC produces a seven-play subscription series of classics, musicals and new plays and an annual production of A Christmas Carol; extensive education programs, including the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award-winning Project Discovery, SummerStage and partnerships with Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts; and community outreach efforts including leading the DFW Foote Festival and recent collaborations with the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Public Library, Dallas Holocaust Museum, North Texas Food Bank, Dallas Opera, and Dallas Black Dance Theater. Throughout its history, DTC has produced many new works, including The Texas Trilogy by Preston Jones in 1978, Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, adapted by Adrian Hall, in 1986, and recent premieres of FLY by Rajiv Joseph, Bill Sherman and Kirstin Childs; Fly by Night by Kim Rosenstock, Michael Mitnick and Will Connolly; Giant by Michael John LaChiusa and Sybille Pearson; The Trinity River Plays by Regina Taylor; the revised It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Charles Strouse and Lee Adams; Give It Up! (now titled Lysistrata Jones and recently on Broadway) by Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn; Sarah, Plain and Tall by Julia Jordan, Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin; and The Good Negro by Tracey Scott Wilson.

ABOUT THE PUBLIC THEATER AT ASTOR PLACE:
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and Executive Director Patrick Willingham, The Public Theater is the only theater in New York that produces Shakespeare, the classics, musicals, contemporary and experimental pieces in equal measure. The Public continues the work of its visionary founder, Joe Papp, by acting as an advocate for the theater as an essential cultural force, and leading and framing dialogue on some of the most important issues of our day. Creating theater for one of the largest and most diverse audience bases in New York City for nearly 60 years, today the Company engages audiences in a variety of venues—including its landmark downtown home at Astor Place, which houses five theaters and Joe’s Pub; the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, home to its beloved, free Shakespeare in the Park; and the Mobile Unit, which tours Shakespearean productions for underserved audiences throughout New York City’s five boroughs. The Public’s wide range of programming includes free Shakespeare in the Park, the bedrock of the Company’s dedication to making theater accessible to all; Public Works, a new initiative that is designed to cultivate new connections and new models of engagement with artists, audiences and the community each year; new and experimental stagings at The Public at Astor Place, including Public Lab; and a range of artist and audience development initiatives including its Public Forum series, which brings together theater artists and professionals from a variety of disciplines for discussions that shed light on social issues explored in Public productions. The Public Theater is located on property owned by the City of New York and receives annual support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; and in October 2012 the landmark building downtown at Astor Place was revitalized to physically manifest the Company’s core mission of sparking new dialogues and increasing accessibility for artists and audiences, by dramatically opening up the building to the street and community, and transforming the lobby into a public piazza for artists, students, and audiences. Key elements of the revitalization included infrastructure updates to the 158-year old building, as well a construction of new exterior entry stair and glass canopy; installation of ramps for improved accessibility; an expanded and refurbished lobby; the addition of a mezzanine level with a new restaurant lounge, The Library at The Public, designed by the Rockwell Group. The LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust provides leadership support for The Public Theater’s year-round activities. www.publictheater.org

Other articles by Lia Chang:
Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz Presents “LADY” Featuring Lia Chang, Monica Garrido, Carolyn Holmes, Noel Simon’ Wippler, Linda Hudson, Adi Meyerson and Kathleen Doran
Photos: Harriet Harris, John Tartaglia, Christine Toy Johnson, Alan Muraoka, James Saito and More celebrate Ann Harada’s Debut at Lincoln Center in the American Songbook Series
Photos: Steve Rosen, David Rossmer, Hannah Elless, Vadim Feichtner, Cathryn Salamone, Ken Triwush and Kate Wetherhead Celebrate The Other Josh Cohen Opening Night
Bryan Cranston Makes Broadway Debut in Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way at The Neil Simon Theatre, Opens March 6, 2014
Celebrating the Year of the Horse with David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu at Signature Theatre; Previews begin February 4, 2014
Photos: Backstage Q & A with Thom Sesma and the cast of Signature’s Miss Saigon
Jan. 22-31: Photos: Tracey Conyer Lee, Lelund Durond Thompson, Matthew Murumba, and Carmen LoBue set for Camille Darby’s Lords Resistance Featured in The Fire This Time Festival at The Kraine Theater
2014 is the Year of the Horse, Dragons and Lions in The Chinese New Year Parade
Q & A with Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play’s Garth Kravits
Photos: David Henry Hwang, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph honored at Sixth Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards 
Photos: Christine Toy Johnson, Baayork Lee, Jose Llana, Ann Harada, Dodie Pettit and More at Charles Randolph-Wright’s “Three Voices” concert series at Stage 72 
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Other articles on Andre De Shields:
André De Shields to receive 2014 Making Waves Award; will perform “Frederick Douglass: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory” at Florida Atlantic University
Nov. 16: Conversations with the Divine with Owais Ahmed, Baize Buzan, Kathryn Cesarz, Kamal Hans, Brian Grey, Donica Lynn, Patrese McClain and Miranda Zola at Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater
Photos: André De Shields, Michael Shannon, Rajiv Joseph, Christine Sherrill, Doug Peck, Alexis J. Rogers, Karen Ziemba and More Celebrate 2013 Jeff Equity Awards
André De Shields Delivers Keynote at the International Conference of Fine Arts Deans in New Orleans
Photos: André De Shields, Mary Zimmerman, Akash Chopra, Richard M. Sherman, Kevin Carolan, Larry Yando, Nehal Joshi and More Celebrate The Jungle Book Opening Night at Huntington Theatre in Boston
Click here for more articles on André De Shields.

Lia Chang. Photo by Charles Richard Barboza

Lia Chang. Photo by Charles Richard Barboza

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia will make her jazz vocalist debut on March 1, 2014, in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2014 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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One comment on “Mar. 7-Apr. 6: André De Shields, Adam Chanler-Berat, Kyle Beltran, Kevin Mambo and More Set for DTC’s World Premiere Musical The Fortress of Solitude, A Co-Production with The Public Theater

  1. André De Shields
    March 7, 2014

    I am attempting to share your consistently outstanding journalism on FaceBook.

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