RED BANK: A FRONTIER FUNDER AT TWO RIVER

Two River Theater.

Although it’s a brand-spanking-new addition to the growing crop of world premieres from Red Bank’s own Two River Theater Company, the upcoming production The Ballad of Little Jo represents the culmination of a years-long process, through which the borough-based stage troupe nurtured and developed the highly anticipated musical adaptation that closes out its 2016-’17 season in grand style.

Tony Award winner LaChanze, Broadway veteran Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Tony nominee Emily Skinner are slated to perform at the Evening on the Musical Frontier fundraiser.

It’s a process that will receive a special salute this Friday, May 12, when TRTC hosts An Evening on the Musical Frontier, an event that doubles both as a fundraiser for its new-show development program, and a sneak advance listen to the musical that goes up in previews beginning Saturday, June 3. Adding to the excitement is the fact that, in anticipation of this rootin’-tootin’ affair, artistic director (and Little Jo co-creator) John Dias has called in some big Young Guns of Broadway to help paint the town.

Actress and singer LaChanze, winner of a 2006 Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical for her role in the tuneful adaptation of The Color Purple — teams with a cast of special guest performers that also boasts Andrew Keenan-Bolger, a cast member of the Disney Broadway projects Mary Poppins, Aladdin and Newsies. Adding to the Tony-level talent is Emily Skinner, herself a Best Actress nominee for 1997’s Side Show (shared, since they played famous conjoined twins the Hilton Sisters, with Alice Ripley), and most recently seen on Broadway in the pivotal role as the dance teacher of Billy Elliott.

The special guests will be giving attendees their first-ever listen to songs from musical projects which are currently in development by Two River Theater. In fact, it was just such an event, several seasons back, that first introduced the Red Bank audience to selections from Little Jo, the show (with book co-written by Dias) that features a score by ex-NFL’er Mike Reid and Sarah Schlesinger — the composing team that previously created the Two River originals In This House and A Wind in the Willows Christmas. For Friday’s program, four cast members of the upcoming premiere production (including Teal Wicks, who portrays the title character) are scheduled to deliver an appetizing taste of the Jo show’s original songs.

Adapted from the 1993 film of the same name, and directed here by John Dias, The Ballad of Little Jo tells the based-on-fact story of Josephine Monagahan, a disgraced young woman from a well-to-do family who disguises herself as a man in a 19th-century Idaho town. Regular tickets ($20 – $70) are on sale now for the production that opens officially on June 9 and continues through June 25, via the Two River website or by calling the box office at (732)345-1400.

General admission tickets to Friday’s fundraiser ($75 per person) include a 6 p.m. cocktails-and-hors d’oeuvres reception followed by the 7 p.m. musical presentation. Call (732)345-1400 to reserve — and keep it tuned to redbankgreen for more on the big debut of Little Jo.

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