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THEATER | THEATER NOTES

The Gospel According to . . . Ross?

November 03, 1996|'Don Shirley | Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

The 25-year-old "Godspell" is getting a make-over for the '90s.

Ross Perot (played by a woman), Whoopi Goldberg (played by a man) and the Psychic Friends Network are all part of the Theater League's "Godspell" revival at the Alex Theatre in Glendale this week and in Thousand Oaks' Probst Center Nov. 19-24 (with other stops scheduled in Phoenix and Kansas City).

Not that the musical's story, based on the Gospel of St. Matthew, is changed. But there are plenty of opportunities to use contemporary cultural icons, said director Glenn Casale. Modern references "make it palatable," Casale said. "Otherwise, you'd just be hearing a Bible lesson."

Casale said he spent about three hours discussing his concepts with composer Stephen Schwartz, who gave his approval.

The new version will be set at an abandoned construction site, "a place where you can rebuild a future," Casale said. It will include a revised form of Schwartz's song "Beautiful City," which was in the movie but not in the original stage version.

That song also was going to be used in an ambitious '90s update of "Godspell" called "Godspell . . . Now!," which was slated to open at the Wilshire Theatre on the first anniversary of the 1992 L.A. riots--and take place in a post-riot L.A. mini-mall. But that production never opened.

It's possible that further updating may be necessary at the last minute for this new production. The first performance is scheduled for Tuesday, as election returns are coming in. The Perot character exclaims, in reference to the expected election returns: "Now you're going to build a bridge to the future. Hell, I could have sold you that bridge!"

That line will require tinkering if Clinton loses. But "he's not going to lose, so I'm not going to think about it," Casale said.

Incidentally, the reason why the previously announced Sam Harris is out of this "Godspell" is because he replaced Donny Osmond during selected performances of a touring "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," after Osmond injured a vocal cord in August. Harris' "Joseph" duties ended Oct. 12--too late for him to join "Godspell." His replacement here is James Barbour, fresh from playing the Beast in "Beauty and the Beast" at the Shubert.

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CAROLING: Ticket sales for Patrick Stewart's solo performance of "A Christmas Carol" at the Doolittle Theatre totaled $147,609 last Sunday--the first day of sales to the general public. This was more than the show sold on the first day of sales for any of its three previous Broadway engagements in larger theaters, producer Timothy Childs reported.

Last Sunday wasn't the first day of sales, however. Promotional offers to subscribers of Center Theatre Group, the Geffen Playhouse and New Yorker magazine gave them first crack at tickets.

"Very few prime tickets will be available when tickets go on sale [to the public]," the letter (dated Sept. 30) to New Yorker subscribers claimed.

Asked if that prediction came true, Childs replied that "it depends on what you define as a prime seat." He declined to say how many seats were sold in the pre-sale to selected subscribers. But as of early last week, some performances already were 70% sold out, while others were still only 30% sold.

A telephone ticket seller said that on the opening day of public sales last Sunday, "the available seats seemed pretty far back."

While such targeted offers are not uncommon, they often promote shows that have longer runs than the 20 performances scheduled for "A Christmas Carol." In those cases, more "prime seats" would still be available to the public.

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