Back in the early 1960s, when librettist Tom Jones and composer Harvey Schmidt were looking for their first Broadway property as a follow-up to their “little” show running off-Broadway called “The Fantasticks” that would go on to run for an unprecedented forty-two years, the pair turned to N. Richard Nash’s “The Rainmaker,” which had already inspired a Katherine Hepburn/Burt Lancaster film, but which Nash particularly thought was crying out to be set to music. The result was “110 in the Shade,” which producer David Merrick had exercised such tight control over that some of the inexperienced pair’s intentions became lost in the shuffle. Even so, the show ran for a year, toured for a year and had a memorable cast album, but has had little life since. In preparation for a 2007 New York revival, Jones has provided Light Opera Works’ artistic director and show director/choreographer Rudy Hogenmiller with a revised script and two new songs, a real coup for the company, which is giving the work the tender loving care that it so richly deserves. The lush, Western-flavored melodic score is vintage Aaron Copland meets Rodgers and Hammerstein and benefits immeasurably from a full orchestra and trained voices, a first-class chorus, lively choreography, Dust Bowl sets and even real rain for a finale. All of the stops are being pulled out at Light Opera Works in the service of a truly neglected gem that with a first-rate cast such as LOT has assembled, is a first-class musical theater experience. (Dennis Polkow)
“110 in the Shade” plays August 25-27 at Northwestern University’s Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson, Evanston, (847)869-6300.