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'Dangerous Beauty' Blends Passion, Poetry, Politics

Musical performances run through Aug. 17 at the Ethel M. Barber Theatre.

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July 8, 2008
EVANSTON, Ill. --- The world premiere musical of "Dangerous Beauty" is a blend of passion, poetry and politics with an original score inspired by the best of Renaissance, rock 'n roll and classical music. This is the fifth full production to be developed by Northwestern University's American Music Theatre Project (AMTP).

Performances will be held from July 25 through Aug. 17 at the Ethel M. Barber Theatre, 30 Arts Circle Drive, on the University's Evanston campus. (The official press opening is Aug. 1.) The production also is the third presentation of Northwestern's Summer Music Theatre Festival 2008.

"Dangerous Beauty" features book and verse by Jeannine Dominy, music by Michele Brourman, lyrics by Amanda McBroom, direction by Sheryl Kaller and choreography by Robert La Fosse. It was inspired by the scholarly book "The Honest Courtesan" by Margaret Rosenthal and the 1998 New Regency motion picture "Dangerous Beauty" screenplay by Dominy.

"'Dangerous Beauty' is the perfect challenge for our development initiative," said AMTP Artistic Director Stuart Oken. "It combines history, culture, music and dance into a seamless blend of unconventional theatricality."

Set in the city of Venice as the Renaissance gives way to the Inquisition, "Dangerous Beauty" tells the tumultuous tale of Veronica Franco, a notorious courtesan and 16th century poet who recognized that only as a courtesan could she retain access to an education and a place in the cultural and political life of her beloved city.

The stage production will feature two remarkable actresses with ties to the Chicago area. Northwestern alumna Jenny Powers has had major roles in the Broadway productions of "Little Women" and "Grease." Hollis Resnik, an eight-time Joseph Jefferson Award winner, has performed on virtually every major stage in Chicago.

Four other professional actors in the 17-member cast are Jeffrey Baumgartner, Peter Kevoian, Peter Oyloe and Chris Sullivan. The balance of the cast is made up of students in the Northwestern Music Theatre Certificate Program, including Nina Dante, Rebecca Davis, Seth Dhonau, Anna Eilinsfeld, Jefferson Grubbs, Jason Heymann, Laura Huizenga, Tate Jorgensen, Jessica Kingsdale, Emma Rosenthal and Chris Strauss.

The AMTP core funding sponsors are Barbara and Garry Marshall, John and Patricia Shields and William Donnell. The "Dangerous Beauty" senior honorary producers are Christine Meyers; and Susan Dietz, Paula Holt, Barbara Manocherian and Tara Smith. "Dangerous Beauty" honorary producers are Marian and Richard Bott and Barbara Whitman and David Carlyon. "Dangerous Beauty" junior honorary producers are Beverly and Staman Ogilvie.

Book and verse author Jeannine Dominy's screenplay "The Honest Courtesan" was her first to reach production, released in 1998 by Warner Bros. as the film "Dangerous Beauty." Dominy was a finalist for The Don & Gee Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting for her original screenplay "God's Mistress" that also won a Laurel Screenwriting Award and is being produced by Tiara Blu Films. Dominy writes for numerous studios and independent film companies. She is working on the project "Peony" for Everest Productions and "Newtonian Casino" for Trademark Films.

Composer and Northwestern School of Music alumna Michele Brourman is a winner of the Johnny Mercer Award for "Emerging American Songwriter." Her songs have been recorded by Olivia Newton-John, Michael Feinstein, Donny Osmond, Cleo Laine, and others. They also have been featured in television and film. She composed the dance and incidental music for "Working" on Broadway. Brourman and lyricist Amanda McBroom have written songs for 12 animated features for Universal Studios, garnering nominations for ANI and DVD Premier Awards. As a pianist, Brourman has played for diverse artists, including Bernadette Peters and Bob Dylan.

Lyricist Amanda McBroom came to the attention of the public when Bette Midler's version of McBroom's song "The Rose" hit number one worldwide in 1979. She won a Golden Globe award for Best Song in 1980. Her compositions have been recorded by artists Judy Collins, Barbara Cook, Barry Manilow and The Manhattan Transfer. She composed songs for the television series "Cop Rock." She has recorded eight compact discs on her own label, Gecko Records, and has performed in concerts at celebrated venues worldwide, including The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall and, most recently, at the Adelaide Fine Arts Centers in Australia with Michele Brourman. Her first original musical, "Heartbeats," has been performed around the country, including the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, and her original one-woman musical, "A Woman of Will" opened off-Broadway in October 2005.

Director Sheryl Kaller most recently directed "The Alarm" by Frank Pugliese at New York Stage and Film. Additional credits include "The Molly Maguires," music and lyrics by Sid Cherry and book by Bill Strzempeck, at the Berry Center for the Performing Arts (in New York); "Adrift in Macao," music by Peter Melnick and book and lyrics by Christopher Durang at Primary Stages; "Jayson With A Y" by Darci Picoult at The New Group; and "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater," music by Alan Menken and book and lyrics by Howard Ashman at The New York Theater.

Choreographer Robert La Fosse has danced for American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet as a principal dancer. Throughout his career, he performed in works by Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, Bob Fosse and Twyla Tharp. He also starred in the Broadway productions of Bob Fosse's "Dancin'" and "Jerome Robbins' Broadway," for which he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor. He has choreographed more than 75 dances for the ballet, opera, ice skating, film and television. For musical theater, he has created the dances for "Carousel," "Lady in the Dark" (Barrymore Award nomination), "Splendor," "Anyone Can Whistle," "A Child's Garden," "Positive Me" and "Pippin," which he also directed.

Six additional artists round out the "Dangerous Beauty" creative team.

Costume Designer Virgil Johnson, a Northwestern professor emeritus whose work has received acclaim for numerous Chicago, regional and international theatre productions, is the recipient of three Joseph Jefferson Awards and the 2001 Michael Merritt Award for design and collaboration

Set Designer Collete Pollard recently received her MFA in scenic design from Northwestern and has taught design at Columbia College. Her designs have been seen at Chicago theatre companies, including The House Theatre of Chicago, Next Theatre and Steppenwolf.

Lighting Designer Michelle Habeck is the 2002 recipient of the Michael Merritt Emerging Artist Award and her lighting design credits include such theatres as Center Stage, Alliance Theatre Company, The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf, The Court Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre, among others.

Musical Director Doug Peck is a Northwestern alumnus with numerous Chicago and regional theatre credits. He received the Joseph Jefferson Award for "Man of La Mancha" (Long Wharf Theatre and Court Theatre) and also has received four Joseph Jefferson nominations, a Jeff citation and an After Dark Award.

Sound Designer Josh Horvath is the recipient of a Joseph Jefferson Award for "Electricidad" at The Goodman Theatre and also has received four Jeff nominations. He currently teaches sound design at Northwestern.

Fight Choreographer Matt Hawkins' recent credits include "Richard III" for Strawdog Theatre. His fight choreography for "Curse of the Crying Heart" at the House Theatre of Chicago received a Joseph Jefferson nomination (2005).

"It's wonderful to have a group of distinguished artists take up residency at Northwestern for AMTP projects, but it is even more exciting for us when it is a homecoming for our alums -- like composer Michele Brourman and our leading lady, Jenny Powers," said AMTP Executive Director Dominic Missimi.

Under the leadership of Oken and Missimi, AMTP is dedicated to nourishing the vitality of American music theatre through the development and production of new musicals by music theatre's leading artists; increasing opportunities for education and training with Northwestern's theatre, dance and opera programs; and initiating a broad range of interdisciplinary research projects. AMTP was introduced in May 2005 by Northwestern University's School of Communication, in collaboration with the School of Music, Kellogg School of Management, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and the Graduate School.

Single tickets to "Dangerous Beauty" are $30 for the general public; $27 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.