Dude Rehearsal Heralds A New Broadway Season
by McCandlish Phillips
The New York Times - August 3, 1972

The earliest visible outlines of the new Broadway season may be perceived this week at the risk of a 15-volt shock of non recognition, in rehearsals for the new musical comedy Dude.

The first of the entries to go into rehearsal, Dude is now tuning up at the Ukrainian National Home on Second Avenue near Ninth Street on the Lower East Side.

Dude is the work of Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot - two thirds of the creative force responsible for the book, music and lyrics of Hair.  In collaborating on a second musical with a four letter title, Mr. ragni wrote the book and lyrics and Mr. MacDermot the music.

In a gym-sized hall one flight up at the ethnic palace, the shape of at least one thing to come may be seen in long strips of tapes lining the floor in four colors.  The tape strips mark out a staging arrangement that is very little like anything in Broadway memory.

The musical will follow the recently closed and record setting Fiddler On the Roof into Broadway's biggest house, the Broadway Theater, but anyone who follows Dude into the theater will hardly recognize the place.

"We had to hire a set designer for this show, of course," remarked peter Holzer, the co-producer.  "But that wasn't enough.  We needed an architect for this job."

The architect they hired was Leslie Cortesi, whose mild jeopardy in going into a theater is to be mistaken for a star, since she is no less liberally endowed with beauty then with brains.  She has created the  blueprints for the new shape of Dude.

A circular stage, covered with with mounds of rolling turf, will represent a garden, and one that will grow visibly in the course of the evening.  Thanks to Miss Cortesi, it will will be situated in what is presently mid-air in the theater.

Dude will be a flagrantly anti-Broadway musical Broadway musical.  Mr. Ragni means to say good-bye forever to the conventional musical and say hello to the new style musical in which he intends Dude to be the pattern breaker.

In early lines he says, among other things:

"So long choreography/ Good-bye soft-shoes Broadway Baby for Two/...Bye Bye First Row of Mezzanine/ Bye Bye Box Office Scalps/ Bye Bye Ticky Tacky Costumes/ Bye Bye Overture/ Oops there goes our Last Illusion/ Good-bye/ Broadway/ Good-bye!"

"We're going to blast out of the proscenium," Mr. Holzer said, "and alter it into an environmental theater."  His wife, Adela, co-producer with her husband, nodded in agreement.  She was wearing a knit sweater in bright tropical orange with the letters "DUDE" stitched across the back.  Mrs. Holzer won a loyal following of investors when she persuaded many friends to take shares in Hair.

The entire orchestra level will be excused from service for the length of the show's run.  It will be blocked from view by a 25-foot high platform to be built from the back of the stage all the way out to the first row of the balcony.  The circular stage will meet the first row.

On the opposite side of the new stage, another bank of seats will rise over the orchestra pit and the old stage, so there will be another front row there.

Seats will also be arrayed to the left and the right creating an elevated theater-in-the-round.

The title rows role of Dude, still to be cast, will show a young man determined to live on the land against the manifold intrusions and insults-to-nature of industrialized society.

"From the moment you buy your ticket, you will know instantly that this is going to be a whole different experience," Mrs. Holzer said.

Some of the musicians will perch on a platform above the stage; others will maunder in the aisles and byways.

Audience members will be seated in valleys, on mountains, in foothills, and in treetops - so marked on their tickets - surrounding the garden.  With one twist of the sprinkler systems valves, a Spring rain could be sent down upon this sylvan setting, but innovation will stop just short of that.

Some of the action will take place on a 300-foot long running track, shaped very much like the banked track of an athletic club, to be built around the circumference of the interior.

Mr. Ragni, who has a role in the show, expects to log about 6 miles a performance jogging on the track, which he sees as the highway of life.

Undress is one departure from the norm that is not going to be allowed.  "No nude Dude" is the word spread by Mr. ragni, Mrs. Holzer said.

They are bringing in the show on $700,000 capitalization, the Holzers said, including architecture, carpentry and highway construction.  It will open october 2 after three weeks of previews.  The show will not try out of town because one theater is quite enough to make over into Mr. Ragni's vision os a flawed paradise.

Copyright The New York Times Company.  All rights reserved.

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