May 19, 2008

It's a golden opportunity for 'Mr. Gray'

Salem writer's show at Pentacle attracts a Los Angeles producer

By Ron Cowan
Statesman Journal

The original musical "Dorian: The Remarkable Mr. Gray," which just finished a run at Pentacle Theatre, has found a new life.

Los Angeles producer Michael Butler, best known for producing the musical "Hair" on Broadway, has signed a contract with Salem writer-composer Randy Bowser to bring the show to Los Angeles for a mid-October production.

"Our group likes it very much," Butler said. "We're ready to rock 'n' roll."

The show will be directed by Bo Crowell, who directed a recent revival of "Hair" in Los Angeles, and the music director will be Christian Nesmith, son of The Monkees alum Michael Nesmith.

Bowser, who wrote the music, lyrics and story, said he will go to Los Angeles to work on the new production this summer.

"They'll put me in a hotel with a computer," Bowser said. "I have creative control over the cast and everything.

"I love being in Los Angeles. I lived there for 14 years."

Bowser, who has prepared a cast recording for Butler's use, said he announced the new production at the end of the final performance May 10. The contract was signed May 9.

Butler attended opening night April 18 and also came to Salem to attend the opening of Bowser's 2000 revival of "Hair."

"It's a wonderful story," Butler said of "Dorian."

"It's very well put together. It's a very good show."

Butler said the only major change he plans is to reduce the two and a half-hour running time, and Bowser said he already has found places to cut the show, which is based on the Oscar Wilde gothic horror novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray."

"We all agree there's a lot of material there, and we need to have it shorter," Bowser said.

Butler said "Dorian" will open in an Equity waiver or non-union house of fewer than 100 seats and potentially work its way up to a larger venue.

"We do eight to 10 weeks, and then if it does well, move it to a larger house and keep bumping it," he said.

Asked if it might ma ke its way to New York, Butler discounted the likelihood, saying it could cost $15 million to mount a musical such as "Dorian" in New York.

"Off Broadway is a different story," he said.

Butler said he fast-tracked "Dorian" because two of his current projects, musical versions of "Pope Joan" and "Dracula," have been postponed, and there was an opening.

Pentacle managing director Randy Boyd, who helped stage manage "Dorian," said he was pleased with the turn of events.

"I was just amazed at Randy's songs," Boyd said. "I didn't know Randy's talent."

Bowser said his agreement with Butler gives him a one-year option.

"If there's not a production within a year, the contract is dissolved," Bowser said.

Besides Pentacle, Bowser's credits include working at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Masquers Club in Hollywood, where he directed several shows.

rcowan@StatesmanJournal.com or (503 ) 399-6728