Musical The Kiss to Have Its World Premiere at Berklee
The Signature Series at Berklee continues on April 26 and 27 with the world premiere of the musical The Kiss, with book and lyrics by Cheryl Coons and music by Peter Eldridge, Berklee professor of voice. Inspired by the sensual portraits of artist Gustav Klimt, the musical asks the question, “Who is the woman in ‘The Kiss’?”
The Kiss is directed by Rene Pfister and Kristin Bohr, assistant professors in the Voice Department. Students are taking on key production roles, with Jacklyn Riha serving as music director and conductor, and Joey Epstein as assistant conductor. The Kiss will be performed by the 13-member Musical Theater Ensemble and the 15-member Musical Theater Orchestra, taught by Peter Cokkinias, professor of music education.
Longtime friends Coons and Eldridge had been wanting to collaborate on a project for years. “Cheri is a such a strong writer of great characters and stories, and I was becoming more interested in composing for musical theater,” said Eldridge. “She had an interest in the life and art of Klimt. I found the idea intriguing, so we jumped in.”
“Peter came to me and said, ‘I have this new work, is there some way you could produce it at Berklee?’” said Pfister. “In the process of finding a way of bringing his musical from the page to the stage, we created a curriculum that will now allow other students, alumni, and faculty to present new original works.”
The Making Musical Theater Initiative (MMTI) mainstage production combines three classes: the Musical Theater Ensemble, led by Pfister; the Musical Theater Orchestra, led by Cokkinias; and Elements of Theater Production, taught by Jeri Sykes, associate professor of contemporary writing and production, who serves as lighting designer and production manager for The Kiss. Two additional classes, the Stage Reading Ensemble and Workshopping the New Musical, are part of MMTI’s “page to stage” process.
“We are thrilled to see the piece in the talented hands of the Berklee students and faculty,” said Coons. “Klimt’s work was full of fresh ideas and way ahead of its time. It is appropriate to have the musical brought to life for the first time by vibrant young people.”
The Kiss will have its world premiere on Wednesday, April 26, and Thursday, April 27, 7:30 p.m., at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC), 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, MA. Reserved seating tickets are available for $8/$12 at the BPC box office or at berklee.edu/bpc. The venue is wheelchair accessible. For more information, call 617-747-2261.
The Kiss follows two women on the brink of independence, and the notorious artist driven to capture them both. It takes place in Vienna, Austria, in 1943, and tells the story of retired couture designer Emilie Flöge, who is summoned by a Nazi museum director to the Exhibition Hall to authenticate a sketch by her soul mate, the controversial painter Gustav Klimt. As she waits in the gallery, Flöge sees dozens of Klimt's sensuous portraits that were looted by the Nazis. One painting in particular disturbs her: Woman in Gold, the iconic portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer, a socialite with a deformed hand who was Flöge's greatest rival for Klimt’s affection. As she stares at Bauer, Flöge transforms to her younger self and relives the drama of the love triangle, finally learning the secret of the identity of the woman in Klimt’s sensual masterpiece, The Kiss.