"Scandalous!" composer-lyricist Glyn Bailey, second from left, framed by fellow book writers Theasa Tuohy and Keith Thomas. Director Stephen Duckham is at center right.
Almost every week that I have time to do so, I am usually in a theatre viewing one or more of the local productions that are presented at various venues about town. As a member of the Big Easy Theatre Committee, it is my duty to watch upwards of 100 productions a year. For someone who loves theatre it is both blessing and a curse. The New Orleans theatre community bounced back from Hurricane Katrina much more quickly than other segments of the city did. Now, three years after the storm did away with the Saenger Theatre, the only professional venue for touring shows in the city, many of the smaller theatres are up and running with very well-done presentations. Throughout the year there are a number of shows that are done with great care, but because of a lack of resources or limitations in the casts and technical crews, they come off with less-than-stellar productions. Typically, a small coterie of very talented actors and producing companies seem to take the lead in presenting the best shows each year. These include Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre, Southern Repertory Theatre, Tulane Summer Lyric Theatre, Rivertown Repertory, Actor's Theatre of New Orleans, Anthony Bean Community Theatre as well as producing companies like FourFront Theatre, Running With Scissors, All Kinds of Theatre, NOLA Project and InsideOut Productions. One of the consistently powerful producing companies is the Jefferson Performing Arts Society led by Artistic Director and maestro Dennis Assaf. Under Assaf's leadership, JPAS has consistently produced winners in theatre, opera and more popular presentations. Now, their latest production, "Scandalous!", a musical based on the life of British authro D. H. Lawrence, is enjoying its United States premiere and it is among the very best musicals I have ever seen. Glyn Bailey, the composer and lyricist wrote the show some nine years ago and presented it a few times in England before moving to Covington, Louisiana with his wife. He and Assaf go together and the two elected to mount this production for just four shows. Bailey convinced fellow book writers Theasa Tuohy and Keith Thomas and director Stephen Duckham to come to New Orleans for the shows. New York veteran actor Bart Shatto ("Les Miserables," "The Civil War," and "Dracula") and West End actress Lindsay Hamilton led the cast and chorus filled with local talents. In short the show is a smash. Assaf, who led the orchestra with precision, played Bailey's enchanting and compelling music with panache and I count "Scandalous!" as one of the finest presentations I have ever seen. I am only sad that the auditorium was only half filled at the matinee yesterday and that just two performances remain on Friday or Saturday nights. For more information, check out the web site for "Scandalous!"