An interview with Barry Edelstein, Artistic Director of The Old Globe, about their upcoming premiere of Dog and Ponywith a book by Rick Elice and music and lyrics by Michael Patrick Walker.
How did Dog and Pony find its way to The Old Globe?
The first thing I did when I was appointed Artistic Director was call a bunch of talented people I’m fortunate to count as friends. I asked them what they had cooking that might be in need of a home. One of the wonderful artists I called was the great Rick Elice. He told me about this musical he was writing with Michael Patrick Walker, a funny, witty and urbane piece about two screenwriters whose professional relationship is buffeted when romance enters the picture. I read it and listened to the score and was just beguiled by it. Another person I called was Roger Rees. I asked him what he had up his sleeve to direct, and he said, “Rick’s musical!” So the piece’s charms, plus the considerable charms of Rick and Roger, made me say, “I’m in!”
What about the show did you see as a good fit for The Old Globe and your audiences?
I was looking for a small-scale musical for our Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, a 250-seat theatre in the round. San Diego has an incredible musical theatre audience, of course because of the reputations of the Globe and the La Jolla Playhouse for premiering these works, but also because the small theatre scene in town is rich in musical theatre talent. SoDog and Pony had it all: the right size and scope we were seeking, a winning tone, really terrific score and a group of artists who are top flight.
This is the first production for the show. What are some of the challenges for the team as they prepare to bring this show from the page to the stage?
Premiering a new musical is always a daunting task. Doing one in the round just adds to the degree of difficulty. I’ve so enjoyed watching Roger and set designer Kris Stone solve all the book’s demands in the round with a minimum of scenery and a maximum of imagination. There’s a climactic scene that takes place on an airplane, in one of those banks of three adjoining seats. Our hero and heroine are in the window and aisle seats, respectively, and having an intense moment. Someone comes in to take the middle seat, and the scene goes from there. It’s imagined for a proscenium stage: three seats side by side, facing front. You can’t do that in the round because you have to keep opening everyone to all sides of the house. Roger and Kris have come up with an ingenious solution involving three office chairs upholstered in pink. Nothing at all realistic about it, but we totally get where we are. It’s very clever.
What moment in the show do you think will most surprise or delight your audience?
There’s a duet between the mothers of our two leads, both singing about how their grown children have made messes of their romantic lives. The trick is that both moms are played by the same actress, who does a high octane crazy comic duet with herself. It’s a tour de force.
How does Dog and Pony fit in to the bigger new works initiatives at The Old Globe?
World premieres are very important to this theatre, which has a long track record of contributing material to the national repertoire. We are fortunate that we were able to find this wonderful piece but we want to be able to generate more work ourselves. We’re working on building an infrastructure strong enough that we can do much more development in house. Being able to give shows their first steps in to the big world is a real privilege and we want to get better and better and smarter and smarter at doing it.
Why should people swing by San Diego to catch the show?
It’s a delightful, funny, entertaining show and it’s also about real human issues: how we balance, or fail to balance, our professional and personal lives; how much easier it is to just be alone than actually to risk being vulnerable to another human being but how much emptier that makes our hearts. I love the piece and I think audiences will relish it.
For more information about the show, please visitwww.theoldglobe.org.