Skip to main content

By Brian Robin

A Musical 36 Years in the Making

See Past Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical Stories Here

We're counting down the weeks until Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical. You can catch up on past stories about this upcoming world premiere on the SCR Blog. Check out the links below.

The wheels that will become Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical began rolling at SCR back in 2016, before David Ivers took the reins as Artistic Director. But if you’re looking for That Moment, the lightning bolt between the eyes moment when Ivers realized what kind of work he had, go back to after he was appointed SCR’s Artistic Director, but before he was in residence in early 2019 and join Ivers in his moment of Zen.

“I watched it on video, because I was between Tucson (Arizona Theatre Company) and here,” Ivers remembered. “And when I heard the song ‘I Haven’t Slept in Years,’ which is Rita’s first song, I basically put it down right there. I called the team together and said ‘I’d like to greenlight this.’

“It was very kinesthetic and very immediate for me. So I signed a slip of paper that said we’re going to develop this. We’re going to stay with it and develop it. … 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.”

Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical takes the Segerstrom Stage April 5-May 4 as the centerpiece of SCR’s 60th season. Its world premiere will mark the culmination of that eight-year trek from commission through numerous workshops to casting to finally the stage.

The original Prelude to a Kiss made its world premiere as a play (without music) at SCR in 1988, before going to Broadway, earning Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize nominations, then becoming a feature film starring Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan. Ivers and the artistic staff have assembled a Broadway-caliber production team, headed by Craig Lucas, who also wrote the original. He’s joined by lyricists Sean Hartley and Daniel Messé, composer Greg Pliska and music director Wylie DeWeese, among others. (For more about these artists, see the links in the sidebar story.)

“Craig Lucas has been part of the trajectory of SCR 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. …

“I didn’t know Sean, but I’m a huge fan of his work. All three of them: Sean, Dan and Craig are encyclopedic and intimidatingly so, in terms of their knowledge and of course, the world in which they work. They’re also in the best way insanely talented artists and unique.”

Getting those talented and unique artists together was not easy. Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical was commissioned in 2016. After Ivers had his lightning-bolt moment, the play was workshopped again before a reading at the 2019 Pacific Playwrights Festival. In the various workshops, songs were added, deleted and moved around to better enhance the story and improve it dramaturgically.

“That’s the kind of work we’ve been doing, exploratory work in trying to link together the book and the score, so it becomes a musical,” Ivers said. “The source material of Craig’s work is brilliant, but it can’t all be in there. There are characters that are invented that don’t exist in the play and there are characters in the play that take on a different dramaturgical prowess in the musical. And all of that is under examination as well as how do we get it to production?

“What does it mean to physicalize it? How does a play set in the late ‘80s find itself through the lens of today? And what does it mean to set this now in 2024 in New York City or the equivalent?”

The pandemic cut the momentum to a trickle, pushing the play’s opening past 2020. When Ivers was able to resume the workshops, several had to be cancelled due to COVID and other impediments. This pushed the opening back from 2023 to this season. After the dust settled, Ivers and his team regained their momentum with renewed vigor.

The intricacies and complexities of Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical required various kinds of workshops, which included a movement one in Chicago last November with choreographer Julia Rhoads, and several in New York on various elements. Meanwhile, Ivers and his artistic team conducted auditions in New York and Los Angeles, finishing the final pieces of casting just last week. The cast will be announced later this month and features several recognizable names to theatre fans.

With all the fits and starts, it’s fitting that one of the songs is titled “Age of Anxiety.”

“Is there a better title for a song in 2024?,” Ivers quipped.

Ivers is ecstatic about what awaits audiences seeing the first major musical coming out of the new-play incubator, The Lab@SCR.

“The audience can expect to see virtuosity and attention to detail,” Ivers said, referring partly to Lucas’ famous vigorous writing style. “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.”


About the author

South Coast Repertory

South Coast Repertory is a Tony Award-winning theatre is known for producing classics, contemporary hits and world premieres, for having the largest new-play development program in the nation and for advancing the art of theatre in service to the community. 

This website uses cookies

We use cookies to personalize content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyze our traffic.