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Kim Criswell, Tony Award winner Elizabeth Seal in Cole's 'Merman's Apprentice'

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BroadwayGlobal and Theatre Chat share an exclusive from one of Broadway's favorite composers Stephen Cole. Kim Criswell and Tony Award winner Elizabeth Seal will star in the stage reading of Stephen Cole and David Evans new musical "Merman's Apprentice" at London's Landor Theatre.

"It is so thrilling that my friendship with Ethel Merman has flowered into this fantasy story that keeps her spirit alive. I have written Merman as the funny, warm, vulnerable lady who I knew well. Merman never got to bring her big shows to London. She didn't do Annie Get Your Gun or Call Madam or Gypsy there, so I feel excited to bring this original musical comedy fable over there and I think we are going have a helluva time!" Stephen Cole.

Merman’s Apprentice, a new musical fable with Book and Lyrics by Stephen Cole (Inventing Mary Martin, After the Fair, The Night of the Hunter, The Road to Qatar!) and Music by David Evans (Birds of Paradise, Children’s Letters to God) has been chosen to be the opening show as part of London's Landor Theatre's "From Page to Stage Festival" on February 11th and 12th at 7:30 p.m. There will be an additional presentation for industry professionals on Feb. 13th at 2:30 p.m. at The Concert Artistes’ Association at 20 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9HP.

Picture it: 1970. The Golden Age of Musical Theatre is drawing to an end. But twelve-year-old Muriel Plakenstein doesn't know that. So she runs away from home to become a Broadway star, and meets the Queen of Broadway Ethel Merman, who takes her to a Hello, Dolly! rehearsal where they sing together. When legendary producer David Merrick hears the kid, he decides to star Muriel in the first all-child cast of Dolly! Naturally, Merman takes her under wing to teach her the ropes of being a star...making little Muriel Plakenstein Merman's Apprentice. Cole’s close friendship with Ethel Merman inspired the musical fable, which combines real life events and characters with a fictional story.

The reading will feature Olivier Award Nominee, Kim Criswell (Annie, Cats, Baby, NINE, Kismet, Jesus Christ Superstar) as Ethel Merman, Olivia Hallett (Secret Garden, Annie) as her 12 year old apprentice, Muriel Plakenstein, David Burt (The Woman In White, Les Miserables, Kiss Me Kate) as David Merrick, John Guerrasio (South Pacific, Anything Goes) as Moe, Nigel Richards (The Phantom Of The Opera, Les Miserables, Blood Brothers, Carousel, HAIR) as Marvin, Ben Stock (Hello, Dolly, Gays the Word) as Goldie, Ted Merwood (Fiddler, Guys and Dolls) as Pop and Tony Award Winner (for Irma La Douce...being revived this season at Encores) Elizabeth Seal as Ethel's Mom. Daniel Cane, Thomas Sutcliffe, Lindsey Nicholls, Kimberley Moses round out the cast. The readings will be directed by Stewart Nicholls (Gay's the Word) and musical directed by Richard Healy.
 Merman’s Apprentice is having its first London readings, but had readings in New York City and at Village Theatre's New Works Festival as well as at the Acorn Theatre in Michigan.

Stephen Cole is a Broadway Global and Theatre Chat favorite composer. Stephen shared his Merman stories for our 180,00 arts fans. Read the exclusive here www.examiner.com/article/producer-book-lyricist-writer-stephen-cole-shares-merman-stories-and-much-more. Stephen Cole also shared with us recently Broadway's most powerful musical and composers.

Stephen Cole has been represented in New York by The Road to Qatar!, After the Fair, The Night of the Hunter (NYMTF starring Beth Fowler and Dee Hoty) and Piano Bar (The Triad) and will soon be represented Off Broadway by Inventing Mary Martin, for which he is the writer and director. This opens in April at the York Theatre Company. Qatar, Hunter and After the Fair have played regionally as well, with Hunter being recorded. Also with Jeff Saver, Stephen had the pleasure of writing the only original song in the recent Tommy Tune musical 54Forever. Stephen has also written Saturday Night at Grossinger’s (produced in LA, Long Island, Dallas and Florida), Dodsworth (produced at Casa Manana starring Hal Linden and Dee Hoty), Casper (Pittsburgh CLO and Summer tour starring Chita Rivera), Rock Odyssey and others. His published books include That Book about That Girl, I Could Have Sung All Night (with Marni Nixon) and Put on a Happy Face by Charles Strouse. Stephen's current projects include Merman's Apprentice (with David Evans) and The Black and White Ball (with Todd Ellison) and his awards include the Edward Kleban Award for his libretto of The Night of the Hunter and a Gilman-Gonzales Falla Commendation for After the Fair.

David Evans received a Drama Desk Nomination for his score for Birds of Paradise (written with Winnie Holzman and directed by Arthur Laurents), which ran Off-Broadway in 1987 and has since had many regional productions. His Drama Desk nominated musical, Children’s Letters to God (written with Doug Cohen and Stuart Hample), ran Off-Broadway run at the Lamb’s Theater, and has had subsequent productions around the world. Bye, Bye, Big Guy (written with Faye Greenberg and Michael Slade) was a part of The New York International Fringe Festival in 2008. Another show, Love Comics, (with Sarah Schlesinger) has had several regional productions since it’s premiere at the George Street Playhouse. Recently, he presented a star-studded concert of his music at Lincoln Center, featuring Klea Blackhurst, Barbara Walsh, J.K. Simmons, Mary Beth Peil, Jose Llana and others. He has written songs for many Off-Broadway revues, including A…My Name is Alice, and for television shows, including Sesame Street and Square One TV. Also, scores for animated films, two shows for TADA, and nine shows for TheatreworksUSA. A prominent musical director as well, David is currently Associate Conductor of Wicked on Broadway. His conducting credits include recent revivals of Flower Drum Song and Bells are Ringing on Broadway.

Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment and Robert McWhir of The Landor Theatre are producing a full programme of work for the second annual From Page To Stage Festival, a season of new musical theatre at the Landor Theatre from Tuesday February 11th to Saturday March 8, 2014. From Page To Stage is a season of new musical theatre dedicated to the showcasing of work in development to an audience, to garner feedback and create new opportunities for the artistes involved. The 2014 season was selected from an open application process which saw 120 musicals submitted, and presents a mixed programme of work at various stages of development from rehearsed readings to fully staged productions, as well as a selection of platform and scratch events aimed at inspiring discussion about the future of musical theatre on a local, national and international level. Following the success of last year’s inaugural festival, From Page To Stage has also been awarded an Arts Council grant to support the 2014 programme of work. For information and tickets to the Landor Performances: www.FromPage2Stage.com.

Special thanks to Stephen Cole for keeping Merman in our hearts, and bringing new works to the stage. Visit Theatre Chat's #1 A to Z list for Southern Florida, (the fun in the sun arts destination). Subscribe above and click the social media share buttons. Florida Theatre Chat have over to 7,800 arts fans, sharing links like this article. But, Theatre Chat's has over 30 city/State groups "keeping Artists employed and Patrons informed". To choose your 2014 Broadway Global Producer of the Year, visit www.broadwayglobal.org and www.theatrechat.net for more information.

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