Friday, September 14, 2012

Ogunquit Playhouse’s Brad Kenney to Direct Holiday Special at Carnegie Hall

Brad Kenney, executive artistic director at Ogunquit Playhouse, is going to Carnegie Hall (courtesy photo)

By Timothy Gillis

Brad Kenney, the executive artistic director at Ogunquit Playhouse, has been tapped to work on a new holiday special at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Kenney will be working with multiple Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actress Jane Seymour and PBS composer Tim Janis for the musical journey called “The Christmas Rose” on Thursday, November 29. A cast of 400 performers will fill the stage for an evening of music, dance, and drama. Kenney has met with producers of the show and will begin work in earnest in early November.
“It’s kind of a different genre,” Kenney said. “A mix of symphony, large choir, folkloric dancing, with a Broadway musical story.”
“The Christmas Rose” is a whimsical, family tale that follows a young orphan named Annabelle into the desert, pursued by a team of bandits. She crosses paths with everything from the three wise men and singing angels to Mary and Joseph.
“It has a spiritual, holiday feel to it,” Kenney said. “It will be very inspirational, fun, upbeat. We’re shooting for it to be an annual holiday event there.”
The show will employ Broadway-caliber talent, he said, and is very funny. “A team of bandits, led by a character named Adbul, are comic and farcical in their attempts to capture this young girl,” Kenney said. “The backstory is really about a lot of us, a universal message. She’s finding her way in the next part of her life.”
Kenney came to be involved in the mega-production when he was approached by Janis, a noted composer from York, and his producing partners. Kenney’s reputation as Ogunquit Playhouse’s artistic director is known in theater circles around the country, and they recruited him to be at the helm of this new venture in a theatrical fashion.
“We hope it’s the new Nutcracker,” Janis said.
Jane Seymour is the star of the show, set in a story-telling environment. Seymour’s husband, James Keach, who produced “Walk the Line,” will work with Kenney on the production. Kenney thinks Seymour is the perfect choice for her role.
“There’s a beautiful aura of elegance about her, for telling a story like this, on the grand scale of Carnegie Hall,” he said.
Janis and Elizabeth Demmer wrote the music and lyrics for the musical spectacular, and Janis wrote the script. The show will play for one evening only. The following evening, Janis will return for the American Christmas Carol, an annual treat at the venerable venue.
Janis has ten Billboard charting CDs, more than one million albums sold, and four national public television specials. He’s worked with some of the top artists in the music and entertainment business including Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Ray Charles, George Clooney and James Earl Jones. He has also conducted the Czech National Symphony, the Kwazulu Natal Philharmonic and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.
“A lot of what Tim does is inspirational,” said Kenney, who has only been to Carnegie Hall once, as a patron to see a classical music concert. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s an incredibly prestigious place.”
Kenney plans to work with some familiar faces from the Ogunquit Playhouse, who will be collaborating on the project.
Kenney is in his seventh season at the Ogunquit Playhouse, and he is already looking to next year.
“Although we are working on the current production (“Buddy, the Buddy Holly Story”), we’re already working furiously on the 8th (season),” he said. “The seacoast has been a great partner with the playhouse.”
Even with people interested in their digital devices, live theater continues to grow, he said. Kenney credits “the support network, from the community, the board, and the talented actors and actresses that are drawn here. The seacoast is an incredibly cultured and intelligent community, and when you put out a strong piece, they react to it. That’s not always the case in other parts of the country.” Kenney says he repeatedly hears from actors and actresses that “the audiences are smart; they really react to the material.”
The final production of the season, “Buddy,” has some surprises in store. “The actors not only sing and dance and act,” Kenney said. “They also play the instruments.” The theater was fortunate to work with the original creators of the show from London’s West End, he said, and there will be “new songs in the show that haven’t been heard before.”
After “Buddy,” Kenney will focus on “The Christmas Rose,” which will also feature the country’s premier concert boys choir The American Boychoir, and internationally renowned and Ireland’s own Damhsa Dance Company.
The evening’s proceeds will go to benefit The Open Hearts Foundation, which encourages people to live with an open heart in the face of adversity. Tickets go on sale September 28, at the Carnegie Hall box office. Call 212-247-7800 or visit Tickets are discounted thirty percent the first four days they go on sale, from September 28 at 11 am until October 1 at 11:59 pm.