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Press Release: Prelude to a Kiss


COSTA MESA, Calif. (February 27, 2024)—It is a musical eight years and countless hours in the making, returning one of the country’s most accomplished playwrights, Craig Lucas, back to one of his theatrical homes. And with Lucas’ return, South Coast Repertory (Artistic Director David Ivers and Managing Director Paula Tomei) presents the world premiere of Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical, lyrics by Sean Hartley and Daniel Messé, music by Messé, book by Lucas. Directed by Ivers, it runs April 5-May 4, 2024 on the Segerstrom Stage as the centerpiece to SCR’s 60th season.

Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical is produced in association with Milwaukee Repertory Theater, where it will appear in the 2024-25 season.

The original Prelude to a Kiss was a 1988 SCR world premiere play. It went to Broadway, where it received a Tony Award nomination and a Pulitzer Prize nomination, before moving to Hollywood and becoming a feature film starring Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan. It returns to SCR as a musical that explores what happens when a mysterious guest requests a kiss at Peter and Rita’s wedding—and their lives are forever changed. Refreshed, reimagined and elevated by a breathtaking score, this modern fable soars through the peaks and valleys of love—the perfect salve for our disconnected times.

“I think audiences can expect a book and source material that is tried and true, really gorgeous, inspired writing,” said Ivers, who will direct. “I know it’s must-see theatre because the source material is so strong and because Craig, Sean and the brilliant Dan Messé have worked together to deliver a score that, to me, is one of the most inspiring, beautiful, heart-lifting, affirming scores that doesn’t shy away from some of the challenges of the world. …

“I think we have a really, really beautiful piece of theatre on the page.”

SCR commissioned Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical in 2016. Three years later, Ivers directed it as a featured reading at the theatre’s Pacific Playwrights Festival. When Ivers became SCR’s artistic director in 2018, he watched a video of one of the songs during the play’s early development phase. Afterward, he called his artistic team together and told them, “I’d like to bring this here.”

“That started the process. That’s how we arrived here, in a very bumpy way, in between and betwixt COVID and cancellations and postponements and workshops and cancelled workshops,” Ivers said, citing numerous impediments that pushed the premiere back to this year.

Lucas Returns Home

Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical brings Lucas’ work back to SCR for the first time in a decade. Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical will be Lucas’ seventh play at SCR, joining Reckless (1985), Blue Window (1985), Three Postcards (1987), Prelude to a Kiss (1988), Marry Me a Little (1988) and The Light in the Piazza (2014). Currently, Lucas is enjoying Broadway success with another musical adaptation—the well-received Days of Wine and Roses.

His other credits include God’s Heart (1997), The Singing Forest (2004), Prayer for My Enemy (2007), An American in Paris (2014), Amélie (2015) and Paradise Square, which earned a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical. An American in Paris earned a Tony nomination for Best Book.

“I’m overjoyed to be returning with the musical of Prelude to a Kiss to South Coast Repertory where the play first opened its eyes and looked around,” Lucas said.

Hartley’s musical theatre works include Cupid and Psyche, written with composer Jihwan Kim, produced off-Broadway in 2003. He received the Spirit Award for Best Book of a Musical for his work on Little Women, which went on to regional productions across the country. Hartley wrote the book, music and lyrics for Snow, which won the ASCAP Harold Arlen Award for Best New Musical.

Messé and Lucas have made theatre magic together before. Along with co-lyricist Nathan Tysen, they collaborated on the musical adaptation of the French film Amélie, which debuted on Broadway in 2017. Messé has written four musicals for TheatreWorks USA, collaborating with book author and lyricist Mindi Dickstein. As the founder and principal songwriter of the indie-folk band Hem, Messé scored the Public Theater’s summer Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night.

“Craig Lucas has been part of the trajectory of the theatre for a very long time and it’s important to me to have a few touchstone, legacy playwrights re-introduced and brought back to the theatre,” Ivers said. “We did that with Richard Greenberg and—earlier this year—Octavio Solis as well. This feels particularly great that Craig is working with us again during our 60th anniversary season.”

“It’s profoundly gratifying to have the story of Prelude to a Kiss come back home in its new adaptation as a musical,’ Tomei said. “As an SCR world-premiere play, it marked a significant advancement for South Coast Repertory and I can think of no better way to celebrate our 60th season than sharing this world-premiere musical with the Orange County community, which has supported our initiatives in new-play development for decades.”

SCR’s artistic director since 2018, Ivers’ previous SCR directing credits include One Man, Two Guvnors (2015) and She Loves Me (2020). He also helmed the 2021 Pacific Playwrights Festival reading of Coleman ’72 by Charlie Oh and the 2022 reading of A Million Tiny Pieces by Spenser Davis. Along with his SCR credits, Ivers has directed plays at many of the country’s leading regional theatres, including The Guthrie Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company (where he served as artistic director) and Utah Shakespeare Festival (where he spent more than 20 years as an actor, director and artistic director).

The Cast

For Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical, SCR assembled a stellar cast of the best and brightest actors from Broadway and regional theatre—award winners and rising stars. The cast features Hannah Corneau (Rita), Jonathan Gillard Daly (Julius), Julie Garnyé (Leah), Bella Hicks (Ensemble), Jimmie “J.J.” Jeter (Taylor), Robert Knight (Ensemble), Chris McCarrell (Peter), James Moye (Rita’s Dad), Caroline Pernick (Ensemble), Tristan J Shuler(Ensemble), DeAnne Stewart (Angie) and Tony Award-winning actress Karen Ziemba (Rita’s Mom). Rachel Lykins and Robert Zelaya are the understudies.

Corneau played Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway. Moye played Sam Phillips in the Broadway and off-Broadway productions of Million Dollar Quartet. He also directed the 2022 Outside SCR production of Million Dollar Quartet. McCarrell played Marius in the Broadway revival of Les Misérables and the title character in The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical on Broadway and off-Broadway. Ziemba is a four-time Tony nominee who received the award in 2000 for Contact. Daly spent 20 seasons as a resident company member and Associate Artist at Milwaukee Repertory Theater. He has performed his one-man tribute to poet Carl Sandburg all over the country.

The Creative Team

The design and creative team includes Wiley DeWeese (Girl from the North Country and The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical on Broadway), music director; Nick Kassoy, assistant music director; Julia Rhoads (founding artistic director, Lucky Plush Productions), choreographer; Scott Davis (“The Gilded Age,” “The Penguin”), set design; Marcus Doshi (Linda Vista on Broadway) lighting design; Linda Cho (Tony Award winner for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Tony nomination for Anastasia) and Herin Kaputkin, costume design; Andrea Allmond, sound design; Yee Eun Nam, projection design and Greg Pliska, orchestrator. JZ Casting, Geoff Josselson, CSA and Katja Zarolinski, CSA handled casting with additional casting by Joanne DeNaut, CSA. Maisie Chan is the production manager, Talia Krispel is the production stage manager, and Kathryn Davies is the assistant stage manager.

Accompanying the actors is an eight-piece band led by DeWeese and Kassoy (alternating keyboards and conducting) and featuring Greg Huckins (woodwind lead—flute, clarinet, alto sax), Jay Mason (woodwind 2—clarinet, oboe, bass clarinet, tenor sax), Sorah Myung (violin/viola), Martha Lippi (cello), Justin Smith (guitar/keyboards), Tim Christensen (upright and electric bass) and Louis Allee (drums/percussion).

Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical received generous support from Honorary Producers Apriem Advisors, Sophie and Larry Cripe and John and Laura Drachman, Laurie and Steve Duncan, Michael Ray and Samuel and Tammy Tang.

Tickets range in price from $34 to $112, with additional discounts available for educators, seniors and theatregoers ages 25 and under. Tickets may be purchased online at or by phone at (714) 708-5555. More information is available at

Location: South Coast Repertory is located at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, at the Bristol Street/Avenue of the Arts exit off the San Diego (405) Freeway in the David Emmes/Martin Benson Theatre Center, part of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. Parking is available on Park Center Drive, off Anton Boulevard.

2023-24 Upcoming Productions: Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical, April 5-May 4; Galilee, 34, April 21-May 12. Outside SCR’s The Old Man and The Old Moon at Mission San Juan Capistrano, July 20-Aug. 11. The annual showcase of new works, the Pacific Playwrights Festival, runs May 3-5, 2024.</p/>

Complete information is available at

ABOUT SOUTH COAST REPERTORY:  Tony Award-winning South Coast Repertory, founded in 1964, is led by Artistic Director David Ivers and Managing Director Paula Tomei. SCR is widely recognized as one of the leading professional theatres in the United States. While its productions represent a balance of classic and modern plays and musicals, SCR is renowned for its extensive new-play development program—The Lab@SCR—which includes one of the nation’s largest commissioning programs for emerging, mid-career and established writers. Of SCR’s more than 500 productions, one-quarter have been world premieres. SCR-developed works have garnered two Pulitzer Prizes and eight Pulitzer nominations, several Obie Awards and scores of major new-play awards. Located in Costa Mesa, Calif., SCR is home to the 507-seat Segerstrom Stage, the 336-seat Julianne Argyros Stage and the 94-seat Nicholas Studio.

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