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'Bowery Boys' Features George M. Cohan Songs

"The Bowery Boys" is a lyrical tale of homeless youth in 19th century New York in search of the American dream.

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June 26, 2008
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University's world premiere workshop production of David H. Bell's musical "The Bowery Boys" is a lyrical tale of homeless youth in the Bowery section of 19th century New York in search of the American dream. The show is loosely based on the "rags-to-riches" works of American author Horatio Alger Jr. and the songs of George M. Cohan.

The presentation of this large-scale book musical (words and songs) is a developmental co-production of Northwestern's American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) and the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, where the new musical will officially debut in December 2008.

Workshop performances of the second production in the Northwestern University Summer Music Theatre Festival season will take place at 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Sundays; from July 9 to 27, in the Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater, located in the Theatre and Interpretation Center, 1949 Campus Drive, on the University's Evanston campus.

"The Bowery Boys" will feature contemporary adaptations of Cohan's songs with adapted lyrics and an original book written by Bell, an associate professor of theater at Northwestern, and adapted music by Northwestern alumnus Jeremy Cohen. It also will be directed by Bell, in association with AMTP and the Marriott Theatre's Terry James, executive producer, and Aaron Thielen, artistic director.

"The Marriott Theatre has enjoyed a long association with Northwestern University," said James. "Their theatre graduates have been a life blood to Chicago theatre. So this collaboration seemed the ideal fit in not only the development of this new work, but also a hands-on introduction to these exciting young actors."

Bell describes "The Bowery Boys" as a "family show" with complex themes, similar to a Charles Dickens story, rather than one along the more simplistic lines of Alger's writings, about a group of disenfranchised boys who live in New York's gritty Bowery district in the 1880s.

The show's 24-member cast will be comprised of Northwestern music theater students and four professional actors, including three child actors.

Bell's new work will feature a full musical score that includes three Cohan classics -- "Yankee Doodle Boy," "Give My Regards to Broadway" and "Mary's a Grand Old Name." Nearly 15 additional Cohan songs -- some never heard before -- that Jeremy Cohen unearthed during his research at the Library of Congress also will be part of the show. These Cohan songs now have new lyrics and adapted melody lines that are contemporary and innovative.

Bell's 25-year professional career has spanned a wide range of international and national projects as a director, choreographer, playwright and lyricist. In Chicago, he has received 34 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations, winning the award 10 times. His work at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier includes the recent productions of "Taming of the Shrew," "As You Like It" and the "Comedy of Errors." He also has directed both on and off-Broadway. His work on London's West End production of "Hot Mikado" earned Bell a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for best author.

Subscription prices for the first three summer festival shows ("Tonight at Eight," "The Bowery Boys" and "Dangerous Beauty") are $72 for the general public; $67 for seniors 65 and older and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $25 for full-time students.

Single tickets to "The Bowery Boys" are $25 for the general public; $23 for seniors 65 and older and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $10 for students.

For ticket information, call (847) 491-7282. Online ticket sales are available at http://www.tic.northwestern.edu/tickets.php.
Topics: Campus Life