OKLAHOMA CITY — September 1, 2023 — Lyric Theatre returns to the Plaza Theatre this month to present the world premiere of CONCERTO, an exciting new play about the intriguing stories behind Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s most famous violin concerto.
Previews begin Sept. 13, with opening night of the production set for Sept. 16. Performances run through Oct. 1.
Discover the man behind the music and one of the most celebrated composers of all time, Tchaikovsky. CONCERTO, written by Alan Olejniczak, reveals the story behind the creation of Tchaikovsky’s infamous 1878 violin concerto, considered one of the most beloved concertos in music history. This new play is produced in collaboration with Maestro Alexander Mickelthwate of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.
Lyric’s Producing Artistic Director Michael Baron, who is directing the new work, said it focuses on the artist’s relationship with his patron, Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck, and investigates questions about how art was funded and supported in the past, while leaving room for conversation about how art continues to be funded today. The play also shares elements of Tchaikovsky’s personal life that, while common knowledge to historians and music scholars, are not widely known by the general public, including his relationship with his protege, Iosif Iosifovich Kotek.
“What strikes me the most about Alan’s artistic point of view is that he tells the stories of significant historical figures through a modern lens, often revealing something about that person’s life or character that is not widely known today,” Baron said. “When he shared the script for CONCERTO with me, I knew right away that it would be an incredible opportunity. As a play with music, it allows Lyric Theatre to bridge the gap between traditional plays and musicals, providing audiences with a live-performance experience that they might not otherwise have.”
Lyric hosted a workshop of CONCERTO in September 2021 that culminated in a one-night public reading of the play at the Myriad Botanical Gardens. The success of that collaboration and positive audience feedback encouraged Lyric to produce a full-scale production.
Olejniczak completed the first draft of CONCERTO in 2016, but following the staged reading in Oklahoma City in 2021, he updated the script, adding more scenes to elevate the drama.
“I hope audiences enjoy their evening and leave knowing a bit more about how great art is created,” he said. “I want our audiences to be inspired enough to want to attend more theatre and more live music.”
Cast in the role of Tchaikovsky is Matthew Alvin Brown, whose numerous Lyric credits include MATILDA, FROST/NIXON and I AM MY OWN WIFE. Sheridan McMichael stars as Kotek. His past work with Lyric includes MATILDA, HEAD OVER HEELS and THE FANTASTICKS. Kris Schinske is making her Lyric Theatre debut in the role of von Meck. Jesse “Lushanya” Battice will serve as swing, and musicians performing on-stage include Joao Pedro Pena Dutra on piano and Samuel Gilles with violin.
CONCERTO’s creative team includes Uldarico Sarmiento (scenic design), Fabian J. Garcia (lighting design), Jeffrey Meek (costume design), Courtney Strong (props design), Corey Ray (sound design), and Joanne Weaver (wig design). The production’s dramaturg is Emmett Reese with stage management from Danny De Jong.
The world premiere is a collaboration with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic’s Maestro Alexander Mickelwathe who will serve as music supervisor for Lyric's production. Additionally, the Philharmonic will open their season with an evening of Tchaikovsky including the Violin Concerto featuring Ukrainian violinist Anastasia Petryshak and Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 at the Oklahoma City Civic Center on September 9.
CONCERTO is funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). In addition, Lyric’s 2023 season sponsors include Devon Energy, The Chickasaw Nation, Allied Arts, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma Arts Council, The Gaylord Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, The Inasmuch Foundation, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, and The Kirkpatrick Foundation.
In 2014, Lyric Theatre established its New Works Initiative, under which the theatre has produced a world premiere typically once each season. Past new works include TRIANGLE (2014), BERNICE BOBS HER HAIR (2015), MANN…AND WIFE (2016), Disney’s WHEN YOU WISH (2017), WHEN WE’RE GONE (2018), GIRLFRIEND (2019), LYRIC KIDS’ CLUBHOUSE (2020), DENISE LEE: PRESSURE MAKES DIAMONDS (2021), and DISTANT THUNDER (2022).
Tickets to CONCERTO are available online at www.LyricTheatreOKC.org or by calling Lyric’s Box Office at (405) 524-9312, Monday through Friday, 12 to 5 p.m.