Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical makes world premiere at SCR from April 5-May 4

It is a musical eight years and countless hours in the making, returning one of the country’s most accomplished playwrights, Craig Lucas, back to one of his theatrical homes. And with Lucas’ return, South Coast Repertory (SCR), in conjunction with Artistic Director David Ivers and Managing Director Paula Tomei, presents the world premiere of Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical, lyrics by Sean Hartley and Daniel Messé, music by Messé, book by Lucas. Directed by Ivers, it runs April 5-May 4, on the Segerstrom Stage as the centerpiece to SCR’s 60th season.

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Photo by Bronwen Sharp

Playwright Craig Lucas

Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical is produced in association with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, where it will appear in the 2024-25 season.

The original Prelude to a Kiss was a 1988 SCR world premiere play. It went to Broadway, where it received a Tony Award nomination and a Pulitzer Prize nomination, before moving to Hollywood and becoming a feature film starring Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan. It returns to SCR as a musical that explores what happens when a mysterious guest requests a kiss at Peter and Rita’s wedding – and their lives are forever changed. Refreshed, reimagined and elevated by a breathtaking score, this modern fable soars through the peaks and valleys of love – the perfect salve for our disconnected times.

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Courtesy of SCR

Jon Daley plays the role of Julius

“I think audiences can expect a book and source material that is tried and true, really gorgeous, inspired writing,” said Ivers, who will direct. “I know it’s must-see theater because the source material is so strong and because Craig, Sean and the brilliant Dan Messé have worked together to deliver a score that, to me, is one of the most inspiring, beautiful, heart-lifting, affirming scores that doesn’t shy away from some of the challenges of the world.”

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Courtesy of SCR

Hannah Corneau plays the role of Rita in “Prelude for a Kiss, The Musical”

“I think we have a really, really beautiful piece of theater on the page,” continued Ivers.

SCR commissioned Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical in 2016. Three years later, Ivers directed it as a featured reading at the theater’s Pacific Playwrights Festival. When Ivers became SCR’s artistic director in 2018, he watched a video of one of the songs during the play’s early development phase. Afterward, he called his artistic team together and told them, “I’d like to bring this here.”

Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical brings Lucas’ work back to SCR for the first time in a decade.

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Courtesy of SCR

Conor Ryan takes the role of Peter

“I’m overjoyed to be returning with the musical of Prelude to a Kiss to South Coast Repertory where the play first opened its eyes and looked around,” Lucas said.

Hartley’s musical theaterworks include Cupid and Psyche, written with composer Jihwan Kim, produced off-Broadway in 2003.

Messé and Lucas have made theater magic together before. Along with co-lyricist Nathan Tysen, they collaborated on the musical adaptation of the French film Amélie, which debuted on Broadway in 2017.

For Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical, SCR assembled a stellar cast of the best and brightest actors from Broadway and regional theater – award winners and rising stars. The cast features Hannah Corneau (Rita), Jonathan Gillard Daly (Julius), Julie Garnyé (Leah), Bella Hicks (Ensemble), Jimmie “J.J.” Jeter (Taylor), Robert Knight (Ensemble), James Moye (Rita’s Dad), Caroline Pernick (Ensemble), Conor Ryan (Peter), Tristan J. Shuler (Ensemble), DeAnne Stewart (Angie) and Tony Award-winning actress Karen Ziemba (Rita’s Mom). Rachel Lykins and Robert Zelaya are the understudies.

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Courtesy of SCR

Karen Ziemba plays Rita’s mother

The Creative Team: The design and creative team includes Wiley DeWeese, music director; Nick Kassoy, assistant music director; Julia Rhoads (founding artistic director, Lucky Plush Productions), choreographer; Scott Davis, set design; Marcus Doshi, lighting design; Linda Cho and Herin Kaputkin, costume design; Andrea Allmond, sound design; Yee Eun Nam, projection design and Greg Pliska, orchestrator. JZ Casting, Geoff Josselson, CSA and Katja Zarolinski, CSA handled casting with additional casting by Joanne DeNaut, CSA. Maisie Chan is the production manager, Talia Krispel is the production stage manager, and Kathryn Davies is the assistant stage manager.

Courtesy of SCR

James Moye plays Rita’s father

Accompanying the actors is an eight-piece band led by DeWeese and Kassoy and featuring Greg Huckins, Jay Mason, Sorah Myung, Martha Lippi, Justin Smith, Tim Christensen and Louis Allee.

Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical received generous support from Honorary Producers Apriem Advisors, Sophie and Larry Cripe and John and Laura Drachman, Laurie and Steve Duncan, Michael Ray, and Samuel and Tammy Tang.

Tickets range in price from $34-$112, with additional discounts available for educators, seniors and theatergoers ages 25 and under.

For more information or tickets, go to www.scr.org, or contact SCR by phone at 714. 708.5555.

South Coast Repertory is located at 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

2023-24 Upcoming SCR Productions: Prelude to a Kiss, The Musical, April 5-May 4; Galilee, 34, April 21-May 12. Outside SCR’s: The Old Man and The Old Moon at Mission San Juan Capistrano, July 20-Aug. 11. The annual showcase of new works, the Pacific Playwrights Festival, runs May 3-5.


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