Ring Them Bells

First You Dream has got more razzle-dazzle than your typical revue

Ever see a gender-bending twist on ”Cell Block Tango” from Chicago?

”I think that is so typical of what the show is,” says Eric Schaeffer of his Kander and Ebb musical revue, First You Dream, which includes standards such as ”Cabaret,” ”New York, New York” and ”Ring Them Bells.”

Eric Schaeffer

Eric Schaeffer

(Photo by File photo)

”People go, ‘Oh my God, look how they’re doing that number.’ Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, it’s always done [one] way, and we totally turn it on its head.”’

”I think people come in thinking, ‘Oh, it’s going to be this little thing,”’ Schaeffer continues, ”and then it becomes this whole production unto itself.”

Schaeffer originally conceived of the show as a glorified concert, though one with a full orchestra, to better highlight John Kander’s music and the late Fred Ebb’s lyrics than a typical revue’s small band might. With Kander’s assistance, Schaeffer first staged the show in 2009 at Arlington’s Signature Theatre, where he’s artistic director.

Three years later, the show has been revived at the Kennedy Center, where it was picked as a replacement for the cancelled revival of the Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey. Schaeffer most recently directed last year’s Kennedy Center revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies.

”[First You Dream] looks fantastic in the Eisenhower Theater,” he says. The show includes five more songs than it did originally, including one from The Scottsboro Boys, so that all of the main Kander and Ebb musicals are represented. It now features a 23-piece orchestra (up from 20 at Signature) accompanying six standout performers, three of whom – Heidi Blickenstaff, James Clow and Matthew Scott ­– return from the original.

With proscenium arches, special LED lighting and other additions, Schaeffer promises the Kennedy Center production ”has a lot more razzle-dazzle to it.”

First You Dream runs to July 1 at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. Tickets are $65 to $125. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.

Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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