Led by Westport talent, Shut Up and Sing, a gala musical benefit for Theatre Artists Workshop, will take place May 13-15 in Norwalk.
The revue, which will be performed at the Masonic Hall, focuses on a specific, yet entertaining, theme, notes Westporter David Rogers, who is staging the production.
“This show will feature songs from plays that later became musicals” he explains. “For instance, My Fair Lady is a musical that was adapted from the George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. We also will perform scenes from the productions that the musicals came from. We want to show how each play has evolved.”
Although Rogers disclosed that My Fair Lady will not be represented during the upcoming performances, he declined to share what musicals will be included. “We want this to be a surprise,” he said. “Some of the songs will be familiar, others will be more obscure. I do promise that the whole show will be light in concept. We intend to make this a lot of fun.”
Money raised during the performances, priced at $20 per seat, will supplement the costs of running Theater Artists Workshop, which is a nonprofit group of professional actors, directors, writers and other theater professionals who meet regularly to hone their crafts.
Theatre Artists Workshop (TAW) holds two fundraisers each year that help to supplement rent and utilities while keeping membership costs down.
The entire membership of TAW has been involved with the fundraiser’s musical selections. “We have done musicals before, but never on a theme that was this specific. In all, there are 208 plays that have been converted into musicals,” Rogers said. “We asked all of the members to choose scenes they liked. Members performed the scenes they wanted us to use and from there we worked backwards.”
Workshop members live all over the Western Connecticut map. The cast of Shut Up and Sing! are Florence Phillips of Cos Cob; Kimberly Squires and Allan Zeller of Milford; Betty Jinnette, Jo Anne Parady, and Richard Weidlich of Norwalk; Katie Sparer and Nadine Willig of Stratford; Miles Everett of Thomaston; Kristin Graham and Randye Kaye of Trumbull; Mark Basile, Sean Hannon and Emilie Roberts of Weston; and E. Katherine Kerr of Wilton.
Westport resident P.J. Letersky is technical director and Kim Malara of Norwalk is stage manager.
Rogers’ wife of 49 years, June Walker Rogers, is choreographing the show. The couple has resided in Westport since 1967.
The Rogers often pool their professional talents to support local events. He is an actor and writer, whose six Broadway shows include the book and lyrics for the musical, Charlie and Algernon, for which he received a Tony nomination. His other New York productions include, From Here Inside My Head at Playwright's Horizons starring Hal Linden, and the New Faces revue series. His work in London's West End includes a production of Charlie and Algernon starring Michael Crawford, Young at Heart, a Crazy Gang revue, and Killing Jessica, starring Patrick McNee.
She is an actress, director and dancer, who has written 13 published plays and musicals and the instructional book, "How to Make It In Show Biz." Her acting credits include Boys Against the Girls on Broadway opposite Dick van Dyke, the off Broadway Follies of 1910 and many stock and regional theater productions.
On TV, June was featured on the Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen and Jackie Gleason shows and appeared in nightclubs as an opening act for Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. She also has performed at the White House.
Most recently the Rogers worked together as members of the team that created and produced Westport Sunrise Rotary’s original musical comedy spoof, Forbidden Westport III: Beaches, Banks, Barons & Budgets, which was performed last month.
David and June Rogers are among the charter members of Theatre Artists Workshop, which got its start in Westport on Valentine's Day in 1983.
“This group has been together for 28 years, which is amazing,” David Rogers stated. “This is a marvelous assemblage of performers. We have done everything from Neil Simon to Shakespeare.”
Membership over the years has included names such as Anne Baxter, Theodore Bikel, Phoebe Brand, Dorothy Bryce, Morton DaCosta, Sandy Dennis, Mia Dillon, Keir Dullea, Christopher Durang, Kevin Gray, Shirley Knight, Ring Lardner, Jr., Jane Powell, Barbara Rhodes, Lee Richardson, Laura San Giacomo and Brett Somers.
Founded by actor Keir Dullea and his wife, the late Susie Fuller, and based on the Los Angeles "Theatre East" workshop they had loved, TAW is designed as a safe place for theater professionals to perfect their crafts, stretch creative muscles, experiment, develop new plays and get feedback from fellow actors, writers and directors away from the harsh glare of the public spotlight.
Since its start, TAW has served its membership and audiences with that original vision still intact. Plays have been developed that have gone on to Broadway, off-Broadway, regional and even international production.
Shut Up and Sing! will be performed May 13 and May 14 at 8 p.m. and May 15 at 3 p.m.
To reserve tickets, call 203-854-6830. For additional details, visit www.taworkshop.org. The Masonic Lodge is located at 5 Gregory Blvd. in East Norwalk.
Performances will be dedicated to two recently deceased TAW members: Sidney Michaels (Aug. 17, 1927 – April 22, 2011) and Haila Stoddard (Nov. 14, 1913 – Feb. 21, 2011)
Stoddard was an actress, writer and director. During her career, she appeared in a number of plays, movies, and television series, including portraying Pauline Rysdale in The Secret Storm from 1954 to 1970.
Stoddard also worked as a producer, both independently and with her production company, Bonard Productions Incorporated, which she created with Helen Bonfils in 1960.
Michaels, a playwright was nominated for Tony Awards in three consecutive seasons in the 1960s. He made a splash on Broadway in 1962 with his play Tchin-Tchin, which was nominated for a Tony for best play in the spring of 1963, though it lost to Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
In 1964, Alec Guiness won his only Tony for his performance in the title role in Dylan, Michaels’s biographical portrayal of the poet Dylan Thomas. (The play itself was also nominated; the winner that year was Luther by John Osborne.)
And in 1965, Robert Preston played the title role in the musical Ben Franklin in Paris, for which Mr. Michaels wrote the book (and the lyrics to Mark Sandrich Jr.’s music), earning his third Tony nomination and losing to Joseph Stein for Fiddler on the Roof.