A Ring in Brooklyn bills itself as "a frickin' musical" in which a motley handful of unfulfilled, mouthy, gloves-off Brooklynites clash at their 10-year high school reunion, where "that frickin' ring what drove everyone crazy ten years ago ?!" rears its yeah, whatevuh romantic head yet again.
A Ring in Brooklyn is being produced by the Academy for New Musical Theatre at the NoHo Arts Center for a six week run beginning July 28 through September 2nd. It's starring Jordan Kai Burnett, Gabrielle Wagner, Mike Irizarry, Johnny Cannizzaro, Anna Hanson, Mark Shunock and Matt Valle; written by Eric Dodson and Alan Ross Fleishman and directed by Joshua Finkel.
This show was developed for the Victory Theatre in Burbank, and was subsequently selected to be part of Stages Musical Theatre Festival in 2011, and now makes its debut in full production this summer. A Ring in Brooklyn tells the story of high-school alums Gina and Jenn, as they make ever bolder and braver attempts to re-steal a promise ring from the hateful and slutty Tracy. Through the night we are taken back to a senior dance in 1979 where dat frickin' ring first surfaced, and we meet the sweetheart himself, Tommy, whose coolness, poetic notions, and ring not only touch Gina, but it seems every one of his hapless, hopelessly Brooklyn classmates, who are in desperate need of some bright, romantic moonlight.
"It's touching and funny," says ANMT's Artistic Director Elise Dewsberry, "and speaks powerfully about our desperate desire to love and be loved. A Ring in Brooklyn makes me roar with improper catty laughter, but then catches me unexpectedly by the throat and then gives me a sucker punch of sentimentality and truth. It's amazing writing, and you end up loving each and every one of these sad, wonderful, funny people."
"When I first saw A Ring in Brooklyn in a concert reading last year, I fell in love with it," beams the show's producer Kevin Meoak, "It's hysterically funny, and universal, but also extremely relevant with its message of hard-knock looks at self-delusion. So I approached ANMT with the idea of producing it, and here we are a year later now able to share it with a Los Angeles audience. I think they're going to eat it up; it's really a great musical."
A Ring in Brooklyn began in 2009 as a brief 15-minute musical, focused just on the events of the high school reunion itself, with a cast of five. When the Victory Theatre's Cate Caplin approached the writers with the idea of expanding it to full-length, at first the writers balked. "It was initially just about a woman who is so blinded by false memory that she can't see that the love of her life is right before her eyes, which didn't seem like it was enough storyline to sustain a whole musical. But the more I began to explore these five characters, the more I thought that what happened to them ten years ago was affecting ALL of them still, a decade later. And suddenly I had enough material for a three or four hour musical. These characters move me deeply; they're all of them based in some fashion on real people. I can't tell you their real names; they'd kill me if they knew I was writing about them!"
The production's music director, Ross Källing, is assisting Fleishman to score the musical for three-piece band. "We talked about a four or even five or six piece band," says Källing, "but Alan's vocal arrangements are so rich and thick that we made a conscience choice that three pieces can actually accomplish exactly what we need. We've also been working carefully and deliberately to make sure each and every role in the show is defined by range, timbre, and even rhythm, so there's a lot of musical contrast and drama inherent in the score itself, even before the actors start to bring it to life. I have a very special place in my heart for this show; I can't wait for opening night!"
The Academy for New Musical Theatre has a national reputation for developing new musicals through its fabled workshop process, honed over four decades and some 500 musicals. But it's rare that the Academy acts as a producer. They produced the award-winning 40 is the New 15 in 2010, but pick and choose the shows they produce carefully. "I look first of all for high level of craft in a musical," says Artistic Director Dewsberry, "but the show also must have some deep level of truth to it, whether it's a farce or a tragedy. Social relevance is a plus, but at the end of the day, it needs to move an audience to laughter, thought, emotion, or action. I’m confident that A Ring in Brooklyn does ALL of that."