We asked all of our directors this season the question “why?” Here are the answers from the director of our upcoming show,Pacific Overtures!
Why Pacific Overtures?
It’s one of the final major Sondheim musicals that I haven’t done (Passion and Merrily We Roll Along are the others.) As we are taking a hiatus from Sondheim musicals, Overtures seems fitting. In addition, its book was written by John Wiedman. I have directed the other two plays written by him with Mr. Sondheim (Assassins and Road Show), so with Overtures I close the circle that started in 1998 with our now famous production of Assassins.
Why at The Lyric Stage?
For the last 20 seasons, The Lyric Stage Company has made a “cottage industry” out of taking musicals that were originally conceived on a large scale and boiling them down to their essence (My Fair Lady, Kiss Me, Kate and Gypsy to name a few.) Overtures had one of the largest casts in its original production. We will scale that down to 11 or 12 without sacrificing this story of the effect of American Imperialism (along with several other western countries) upon Japan, which had isolated itself in 1600 (as described in the opening number).
While it would be capricious to compare America’s current actions in foreign affairs to Millard Filmore’s “Gunboat Diplomacy” of 1853, American military influence in many areas (such as the Mideast, Viet Nam, and Korea) might bear comparison. The foisting of the “American Dream” on countries or areas of the world that might not be appreciative of it, and the sometimes tragic consequences of those actions (especially a little over 8 months after the evacuation of Saigon, when Pacific Overtures opened) might have had an influence on the writers. Whether it is opening trade, saving the world from Communism, or just preserving America’s need for oil, Pacific Overtures shines a light on the folly that is sometimes called American foreign policy.
Commodore Matthew Perry’s 1853 mission to open trade relations with isolationist Japan through gunboat diplomacy forges an unlikely friendship between the samurai, Kayama, and the Americanized fisherman, Manjiro. The two of them – and all of Japanese society – must face the wave of Westernization that follows. Spiro Veloudos puts a cap on his multi-year Sondheim Initiative with this startling, entertaining, and thrilling masterpiece.
“Mr. Sondheim’s songs are complete miniature dramas, loaded and compressed to a profound intensity.” – New York Times
This startling, entertaining, and thrilling masterpiece puts a cap on Spiro Veloudos’ multi-year Sondheim Initiative. An unlikely friendship is forged between a samurai, Kayama, and an Americanized fisherman, Manjiro, during Commodore Matthew Perry’s 1853 mission to open trade relations with isolationist Japan. The two friends are caught in the inevitable winds of change and tell the story of Japan’s painful and harrowing Westernization. A highly original, inventive, powerful, and surprisingly humorous theatrical experience.
“Musical theater at its most intellectually challenging. Extraordinary songs!” – NY Times
“It’s enthralling to see Sondheim’s songs work so magically well!” – Huffington Post
About Janie E. Howland, Scenic Design
Janie E. Howland** (Scenic Design) has called the Lyric Stage home for 25 years, having recently designed Little Foxes and Anna Christie. Other recent designs: Nat Turner in Jerusalem (ASP), Caroline or Change (Moonbox), Art Makes Sense CONSENSES Exhibit (Mass MOCA), Madeline’s Christmas (BCT), Urban Nutcracker (City Ballet). Other venues: Lynn Redgrave Theatre (NY), Emerson Majestic, New Rep, Weston Playhouse, North Shore Music Theatre, Odyssey Opera, Central Square Theatre, Gloucester Stage, SpeakEasy Stage, Ohio Star Theatre, A.R.T. Institute, Boston Conservatory, Company One, Greater Boston Stage Company, Seacoast Rep, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, and Huntington Theatre Studio 210. Brandeis University M.F.A.; four-time Elliot Norton Award winner, four-time IRNE Award winner, adjunct faculty at Emerson College, Wellesley College. USA Local 829. janiehowland.com
Eddy Cavazos made his Lyric Stage debut as Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman. He most recently appeared in his solo cabaret, #Masc4Mascara, at Don’t Tell Mama in NYC. Other credits include Manuel vs. The Statue of Liberty (The Gallery Players), White Christmas(Arts Center of Coastal Carolina), Junie B. Jones (Theatre Aspen), Peter and the Starcatcher (Theatre Aspen), Hairspray (All Star Theatre), and The Little Mermaid (Fiddlehead Theatre Company). He would like to thank the entire cast and creative team for their hard work, his family and friends for encouraging him to tell stories, and everyone who continuously supports the arts! M.F.A. from the Boston Conservatory. @yayitseddy
About Yewande Odetoyinbo
Yewande Odetoyinbo* (Angel Mo’) is a native of Detroit, MI and a proud graduate of Howard University, where she earned a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre and became a member of Sigma Alpha Iota. She also holds a shiny new M.F.A. in Musical Theatre Performance from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. She returns to the Lyric Stage having appeared in The Wiz last spring. Some of her favorite performances include roles in Fannie Lou at Carnegie Hall, the national tour of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds (Adventure Theatre), Trav’lin: The 1930s Harlem Musical (Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury, CT), Show Boat (Reagle Music Theatre and Fiddlehead Theatre), and In the Heights, and Seussical at Wheelock Family Theatre. She has been seen in various staged readings with The Front Porch Arts Collective and Goodspeed Opera House. It is her lifelong dream not only to perform and teach theatre to inner-city youth but also to open up a performing arts school in Nigeria. She thanks the Lord for His many blessings and her family and friends for their love and support. She would also like to thank Maurice Emmanuel Parent, the Front Porch Arts Collective, and the Lyric Stage family! Ase!
About Johnathan Carr
Johnathan Carr returned to the Lyric Stage for Production Design for Kiss of the Spider Woman after designing By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, Into the Woods,Red Hot Patriot, City of Angels, and Hold These Truths. Boston design credits include An Octoroon (Company One), HEAR WORD!, Pippin (American Repertory Theater), The Man Who (Harvard), Searching for Signal (ToUch Performance Art). New York: H4 (Resonance Ensemble), Same River (Strike Anywhere Performance Ensemble). He currently teaches at Harvard College’s Theater, Dance, and Media concentration with fellow show designer Andrew Will.