'Rock and Roll Man' on Berkshire Theatre Group's 2019 slate

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PITTSFIELD — The five-time Tony Award-winning producers of Caiola Productions — of the "Dear Evan Hansen," "The Color Purple," fame — are coming to Pittsfield next summer to mount a production of the new musical "Rock and Roll Man: The Alan Freed Story."

Berkshire Theatre Group will present the story, on its Colonial Theatre stage, of the man who is responsible for coining the term "rock and roll" as part of its 2019 summer season. The production is in development for a Broadway run and a national tour, according to a statement released by the theater group.

"Alan Freed is an interesting American figure," said Kate Maguire, artistic director and CEO of BTG during a phone interview."He was entrepreneurial and creative; he created rock and roll, which took over the American music scene as we know it. Telling the story of this man who impacted music as we think about it now is exciting and wonderful."

Tony Award-nominee Randal Myler ("It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues") will direct the Equity production, the first non-community production musical Berkshire Theatre Group has staged at the Colonial since "Little Shop of Horrors" in the summer of 2016.

Rose Caiola — who, with her brother, Luigi Caiola, founded Caiola Productions, a theater and film production and investment company — wrote the book for the musical with Gary Kupper and Larry Marshak. Original music and lyrics are also by Kupper.

Maguire calls Rose Caiola a "huge-hearted producer" with "incredible credentials." Maguire was introduced to Caiola by Hal Luftig, the New York producer who worked with Maguire and her team on "Children of a Lesser God," which made its Broadway debut in April. "Children of a Lesser God' transferred to Broadway after a run, last summer, on Berkshire Theatre Group's Fitzpatrick Main Stage in Stockbridge.

"I have looked at the Colonial Stage for some time, thinking the next move is to get a show in here that is transferable. This is it," Maguire said of "Rock and Roll." "I read the script once and just knew."

"Rock and Roll Man" tells the story of the rise and fall of Alan Freed, a radio disc jockey, who became known as the "father of rock and roll" because he was the first to play R&B music by black artists, rather than covers by their white counterparts, on mainstream radio. Freed traveled the country, promoting these artists, arranging concerts and getting their music on mainstream stations from coast to coast. By the dawn of the 1960s, he was the biggest name in music, until scandal made him the biggest target in America. Featuring original songs and some of the biggest hits of a decade, including "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," "Tutti Frutti," "Great Balls of Fire," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Ain't That a Shame" and many more, "Rock and Roll Man" goes behind the scenes and behind the music of one of the most influential — and controversial — figures in pop music history.

The musical made its world premiere at Bucks County Playhouse, in New Hope, Pa., in September 2017.

As for where it goes from here next summer, Maguire said "nothing is ever sure thing, but that's where the magic comes from."

Casting and the rest of the production team is currently being put together, she said. More specifics will be announced in February when BTG's full season is announced.

"I think it's going to be a rare and exciting time to get to see something this extraordinary," Maguire said of the production, which is expected to run sometime late June through late July, 2019.

To purchase season passes, visit BerkshireTheatreGroup.org, or contact the Colonial Ticket Office at 413-997-4444.


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