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By Brian Robin

Hitting the Right Notes

Director David Ivers

Early in the process of shaping Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical, David Ivers wrote a note to himself that—on the surface—was counterintuitive to his duties of directing the musical adaptation of Craig Lucas’ Tony-nominated play. That play made its world premiere at SCR in 1988 before going to Broadway.

In his words, Ivers wanted to “exhaust all opportunities for character development, with the last resort being to sing.” He wanted audiences to relate to the characters as they are in Lucas’ story, then incorporate Daniel Messé’s soaring score and Messé’s and Sean Hartley’s lyrics to bring their final dimensions out.

“And that is the key difference between developing a play and developing amusical,” Ivers said. “The musical exists—and this is just my theory and my opinion—in order to tell a sweeping and gorgeous story in this unique art form. But songs exist to work on the character, not that character superimposing themselves on the song.

“I’m a great believer in the notion that a musical has to reach a point where there’s no other avenue for expression other than this form (music). All these things a musical delivers visually and aurally are unique to it.”

Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical runs April 5-May 4 on the Segerstrom Stage. Eight years in the making, it is the centerpiece to SCR’s 60th season and a production featuring numerous cast members with Broadway credits. That includes Hannah Corneau (Rita), Julie Garnyé (Leah), Jimmie “J.J.” Jeter (Taylor), James Moye (Rita’s Dad), Chris McCarrell (Peter), DeAnne Stewart (Angie) and Tony Award-winner Karen Ziemba (Rita’s Mom).

In addition, Jonathan Gillard Daly (Julius) is a 40-year theatre veteran and 20-year Resident Artist at Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and Ensemble members Bella Hicks and Tristan J Shuler are veterans of major national touring shows. The cast also includes Robert Knight (Ensemble), Caroline Pernick (Ensemble) and understudies Rachel Lykins and Robert Zelaya.

As Ivers, Associate Artistic Director Kim Martin-Cotten, Casting Director Joanne DeNaut, JZ Casting and the rest of SCR’s Artistic team have worked tirelessly assembling this stellar cast and the entire creative team and begun rehearsals, Ivers remained cognizant of that note to himself. He’s reminded himself about the difference between directing a musical and a play. Not that this is Ivers’ first musical rodeo; he directed SCR’s 2020 musical She Loves Me, among his many directorial credits.

The cast and creative team help keep that message on point every day. Let the music be the music. Messé and Hartley have that covered, along with orchestrator Greg Pliska and music director Wylie DeWeese, who Ivers called “extraordinary” for his ability to communicate complex musical numbers to the actors in a relatable manner. It’s DeWeese’s first SCR production.

“We have main and supporting characters who have deep experience in this discipline in particular,” Ivers said. “It’s an exciting combination of unique individuals who will make up a talented community that I feel very good about.”

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. 

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