Eleven costume changes. That's what Jeffrey Schecter can expect in Jerome Robbins's Broadway about to arrive at the Hobby Center courtesy of Theatre Under the Stars.
Schecter (Mike Costa in the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line, Spencer Freedman on Showtime's Escape at Dannemora) in the role as The Setter, serves as a sort of narrator/emcee figure who connects the parts of the musical as well as performs himself from time to time. Even more costume changes are in store for some of the rest of the 47-member cast, he says.
The musical, with songs and scenes form famous musicals the Tony Award-winning Robbins either choreographed or directed, includes excerpts from West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof and Gypsy.
"This show is really unique in that it’s only been revived one time," Schecter says. ".It was done one time on Broadway obviously many years ago and the original cast just celebrated their 30th anniversary since the show opened. Until last year it had never been revived. It’s too big to get the rights to all these individual shows and to get everyone to sign off on it was a nightmare until the St. Louis Muny did the show last year. To my understanding it was a real inspiration and a green light for TUTS to go 'Wow we love this show.' There's a lot of people who haven't seen this show.
"It's not a specific story. It truly is a tribute to Jerome Robbins and reminds people there are so many shows that he had his whole body and mind in and you sit back and 'Oh, my God. That show and that show and that show.' We go from number to number and it's kind of like this wonderful journey getting to enjoy your favorite moments from some of the greatest musical shows every produced on Broadway."
They call the selection of excerpts from West Side Story a suite of dances, Schecter says, because they give audiences the greatest numbers from the show. "You really get to sit back and enjoy seeing the original choreography danced beautifully on stage all over over again as if you're witnessing it on Broadway for the first time."
Everyone in the show is required to sing, dance and act, Schecter says. He started as a dancer in the business years ago and since then has honed his talents as an actor and singer as well. He wanted to do theater from an early age, he says. "I was always kind of a silly, funny kid; liked to make my family laugh."
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He started dancing inspired by Michael Jackson and John Travolta. Eventually he found himself in a dance school when he was a teenager. In high school he got to play the lead role in Little Shop of Horrors and that was the defining moment for him, he says. "From then on, this is where I belong."
At 18 he was doing a national tour of Sesame Street Live where he got his equity card. Plans for college (he had a full scholarship to Marymount University) were permanently put on hold when he was offered the chance to go on the European tour with West Side Story. A few years later he was cast in the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line and in all has been involved in nine different Broadway shows and lots of TV. .
"If you’re a musical theater lover you probably know three-quarters of the songs in this and your probably love them," Schecter says. "The icing on the cake is that there’s a handful of numbers people have maybe never heard of that are incredible numbers from incredible shows that people will become new fans of. It's just a great beautiful tribute to musical theater, to musical theater fans and people who maybe don't know Jerome Robbins — it's like going to a buffet and having your favorite foods."
Performances are scheduled for May 28 through June 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays, 8 p,n, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call 713-558-8887 or visit tuts.com. $30-$104.50.