Life’s up and downs and highs and lows are often accented by the bittersweet moments in between. And when you set those special moments to music, you get Bittersuite: Songs of More Experience, a new musical revue playing in Curtain Call’s Dressing Room Theatre, Stamford, CT, November 8 through 18.
Stamford resident and composer Elliot Weiss and lyricist Mike Champagne (winners of the Eugene O’Neill Award for Musical Theatre) are at it again with a new song cycle picking up where their previous show, Bittersuite: Songs of Experience, left off nearly 30 years ago. Now the creators wax philosophical on themes of maturity and middle age…and all the highs and lows they bring.
“In this newest version of Bittersuite, we have returned to explore the American Middle Class as we age. Have we changed; have we learned; who are we now,” said Champagne.
Champagne and Weiss continue to probe the soul of the American experience through song. “Looking back at the subject matter of Bittersuite, coupled with the fact that we were still active and working together after all these years, Michael and I thought it would be exciting to once again examine the human experience, but this time from an older and hopefully wiser perspective,” said Weiss
Weiss added, “The new show is not so much a sequel as a snapshot of our hearts and we were trying to explore the way people in their 30s and 40s deal with personal limitations,” Champagne said. “Americans, as a people, don’t part with their dreams easily, I think. So recognizing what we can and can’t do is very dramatic for most people.” Now they’re looking at it with older eyes.
Their first edition, Bittersuite: Songs of Experience, began in 1984 and ran Off-Broadway for fourteen months and later opened to critical acclaim in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, and most recently Bulgaria. Bittersuite was singled out as a critic’s choice by the L.A. Weekly, the Daily News and Drama-Logue.
“In between sighs, this is one of the funniest shows in town.” – Los Angeles Times
“The freshest, most lyrical and musically new cabaret revue I’ve seen– or heard.” – San Francisco Examiner
“A giant box of candy for those with a sweet tooth for musical theatre.” – San Francisco/USA
“I was fortunate to have been kicking around NYC in the 1980s and saw the original production and loved it,” said Lou Ursone, executive and artistic director of Curtain Call, Inc. of Stamford, the co-producer for this run. “When Elliot reached out to me about this new show, it was a no-brainer,” Ursone said. Curtain Call presented a staged concert reading last spring as part of its Musical Mondays series of original works. Audience response was as favorable as was Ursone’s and so the two-week run in The Dressing Room Theatre was scheduled.
Weiss and Champagne started working together in 1978 with a musical romance based on the memoirs of Casanova. The show was warmly received but although the cast was cut down to 12 they found that the new realities of tight Broadway budgets made even that too large a cast. “We decided to go the other way and boil down a musical to its barest essentials – four singers, a few stools and a piano,” said Weiss. And that’s exactly how this next version will be presented as well.
Ursone said he is excited about the new work because it has such broad appeal. “The basis for that appeal is recognition,” Champagne said. “What the audience finds appealing is that they recognize themselves and people they know. The emotions expressed in the songs seem to ring the right bells,” he added.
And since it’s clear that experience counts, two cast members of this production also played in the earlier version: David Edwards and Terry Rakov de Groat are joined on stage by Maryellin Kurtz and Tom Treadwell. Edwards is also directing. Music direction and accompaniment will be by Weiss.
A graduate of New York University and the Lee Strasberg Institute, Edwards has had a long and varied career in professional theatre going back to a childhood appearance in the original Broadway run of The Rothschilds and performances in the original Sullivan Street Playhouse run of The Fantasticks. (He was the last El Gallo in that run.) Edwards has appeared in hundreds of productions across the country and has directed countless others at Westchester’s Broadway Theatre, Surflight Theatre, Mt Gretna Playhouse and Gateway Playhouse, to name a few.
Bittersuite: Songs of More Experience will play in The Dressing Room Theatre November 8 through 18, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00pm and Sunday afternoons at 2:00pm. Seating is cabaret-style with a BYOEverything format. Ticket prices are” $29 for adults, $22 for senior citizens and $14.50 for students and children. Thursday evening: all seats $20. Tickets are available online at www.curtaincallinc.com or by calling the box office at 203-461-6358 x13.
Following Bittersuite: Songs of More Experience will be: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat playing November 16 through December 15 and A Merry Mulberry Street Musical playing November 29 through December 16. The New Year continues with two interactive murder mysteries, two Monday Night Musical concert readings of new shows, cabaret performances by Frank Mastrone and Michael Jovavich, plus the following full-scale productions: Agatha Christie’s The Unexpected Guest, A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Oklahoma, The Dixie Swim Club and Legally Blonde.
Curtain Call is Stamford, CT’s longest-running and only year-round, nonprofit, professionally-run, producing theatre company. In residence at The Sterling Farms Theatre Complex, 1349 Newfield Avenue in Stamford, productions and educational workshops are presented by and for area residents in The Kweskin Theatre and The Dressing Room Theatre. Curtain Call was voted Fairfield County’s BEST LOCAL THEATRE GROUP 2005 through 2012 in the Annual Readers’ Poll of The Fairfield County Weekly as well as BEST LOCAL THEATRE by StamfordPlus magazine for the past five years and as BEST VENUE by Stamford Magazine readers. Curtain Call also received The Governor’s Award for Excellence in Culture and Tourism for 2011 and in a recent Facebook poll, was noted as the most popular theatre in Connecticut and second most favorite attraction in the state.