Menken and Rice's 'King David' Will Rule Again


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Menken and Rice's 'King David' Will Rule Again

Tue Aug 24, 4:03 PM ET Add Arts and Stage - Playbill to My Yahoo!

Kenneth Jones Playbill On-Line

Lyric Stage, the Dallas area theatre company devoted to rare and new musicals, will present the first regional presentation of Alan Menken and Tim Rice's King David, the oratorio which was the inaugural attraction at Broadway's refurbished New Amsterdam Theatre in 1997.

The "Biblical oratorio" will play Dec. 15-17 at The Cathedral at the Arts District Virgin of Guadalupe Shrine in Dallas. Additional performances play Irving Arts Center's Dupree Theater Dec. 18 at 8 PM and Dec. 19 2:30 PM.

Cheryl Denson directs. Lyric Stage founding producer Steven Jones told Playbill On-Line the principal cast will be in costume, supported by a 100-person choir. He said the piece would be true to its conception: It's an oratorio rather than a traditionally-directed and choreographed musical, though it will be fully produced. Don't expect actors with script and music in hand.

Casting has not been announced for Lyric Stage's King David. Menken penned music for Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast and "The Little Mermaid." Rice is the lyricist of Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Chess and Aida, among other shows.

Lyric Stage's 2004-05 season will also include the recent Charlotte Moore's rewrite of Finian's Rainbow, seen at Irish Repertory Theatre in Manhattan. This lean two-piano version of the satiric musical comedy fantasy by Yip Harburg, Fred Saidy and Burton Lane will open the new season Sept. 17-Oct. 2 at the Irving Arts Center's Dupree Theater, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd., Irving, TX. Marcia Milgrom Dodge will direct.

The season's third show, to be announced, will play Feb. 11-26, 2005.

Dallas Divas! plays March 11-12, 2005.' '"This year 10 of North Texas' top leading ladies will sing music by America's best and brightest new musical theatre composers." according to the announcement." The concert will be heard in the Irving Arts Center's Carpenter Performance Hall.

Lyric Stage's 12th season closes with the Tony Award winning hit Ragtime, April 23-May 7, 2005.

For ticket information, call the box office at (972) 252-2787 or visit

King David ended a nine performance world premiere engagement May 23, 1997, for Walt Disney Theatrical Productions. The concert event reopened the New Amsterdam Theatre, the historic, opulently-restored 94-year-old former home of the Ziegfeld Follies, which began a decline in 1947 when it became a 42nd Street "grind house" for movies.

In 1997, Rice told Playbill On-Line contributor Ellis Nassour he felt the New Amsterdam's gala reopening may have presented King David at a disadvantage. He said, "It would have been nice to have an out of town tryout, say in far-off Minneapolis. I can put my finger on the factors that mitigated against us.

"From the point of view of the piece, it might not have been the best way to open cold in a magnificent, virtually new theatre, which inevitably attracted a lot of attention. And all this stress and work to play only a few days. On the other hand, Alan and I feel it's been a terrific chance to get something on the boards quickly. We intended this to be the first stage of development. Instead of having continuing previews, we're regrouping..."

According to Rice, he was intrigued for years about King Saul and had considered a musical piece. "Then we were commissioned by an Israeli producer to commemorate the 3,000th anniversary of the city of Jerusalem," said Rice, "with the focus to be on King David. I knew him to be associated with Saul but I didn't know much more. I found him to be one of the most fascinating characters in the Old Testament.

"We were to write something fairly serious, fairly - I don't want to say religious, although it's a religious story, something geared for an oratorio rather than a musical, something outdoors for Jerusalem and not for indoors on Broadway. When it proved logistically and financially impossible to do it and Disney took an interest, we changed gears. But we didn't want to change the piece. That was a problem We felt we'd been commissioned to write it as an oratorio, and still hoped it would be performed as such in Israel. Perhaps, on the road to New York, we should have emphasized that more to avoid being judged primarily as a Broadway show.

There is work to be done, Rice said in 1997. "It's not finished. Perhaps as we gear it for Broadway, it should be less Sheba and more Bath."

Mike Ockrent directed the original staging.

King David marked his third collaboration with Menken, who he joined after the death of Howard Ashman to expand the animated Disney film Beauty and the Beast for the stage and complete the score for the animated Aladdin. They received Academy Awards (news - web sites) for Score and Song on the latter.



Glad to hear that King David is returning ... it was time ... but then Menken and Rice originally turned all offers down stating that they want the show to open in Jerusalem first - which never worked out.

It will be interesting to see in which condition the material is in the meantime. The version performed on Broadway was rather ... hmmm how shall I say ... bombastic but boring?? The score lacked emotion and used the same huge chorus all the time to blast the audience away - I hadn't listened to the CD for ages and pulled it out when I read the post above ... and realized: it did not get better in the meantime ;-) after half of the CD you have the impression it all sounds the same, which might at least partially be due to the overuse of the chorus.



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Aw c'mon Dirk! A neverending chorus of "Saul has killed his thousand and David has killed his ten thousand" was a true toe-tapper!