It received nominations for 5 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and 3 Drama Desk Awards. Even so, here’s a musical that is mostly a memory and therefore a bit of a gamble for the Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Company. A Class Act, by Edward Kleban, lyricist of A Chorus Line, will be performed at The Unicorn Theatre by Berkshire Theatre Group’s Unicorn Company. Previews begin July 11 with an official press opening on July 14 at 8pm and closing on August 4.
There’s an interesting backstory too about its writer. Edward Kleban was probably the most successful failure in Broadway history. Such are the ways of show business: Kleban’s lifelong dream was to compose Broadway scores; while his gifts were widely acknowledged, his shows never got on. Finally, after years of frustration, he reluctantly agreed to write only lyrics for an unpromising project staged by Michael Bennett, titled A Chorus Line. You know the rest: A Chorus Line became the hit that defined Broadway for a generation of theatergoers. That’s when Kleban’s troubles really began; paralyzed by his success, bitter that his music had been overlooked, driven by titanic neuroses, he sabotaged every subsequent project to which he became attached. When he died, much too young, in 1988, he left behind a legacy of hundreds of unheard songs.
Thanks to the Berkshire Theatre Group you are going to hear some of the best of them. Obviously, this is not the stuff of your typical tears-and-laughter backstage musical. But from Kleban’s bittersweet life his longtime companion Linda Kline and actor-director Lonny Price have fashioned A Class Act. Taking the format of an unproduced, autobiographical Kleban show, Light on My Feet, it tells the tale of a Broadway baby who hit the jackpot only once, a fabulously self-defeating character whose life was arguably ruined by success. Even more improbably, A Class Act is moving and funny, a celebration of music, friendship, and musical theatre.