Summer 2015 is turning out to be the season of original musicals making their premieres with Washington area theaters. One of the most anticipated and appropriately “local” offerings opens this week at Pallas Theatre Collective. code name: CYNTHIA was born at the International Spy Museum, conceived by Chicago writers Steve & Karen Multer who hoped all along their original show based on the exploits of WWII seductress Betty Pack might start its journey in the city where the woman herself lived and made her greatest contribution to the Allied efforts. When the lights rise on Betty and her company Thursday evening, a new female hero will gain the fame she always deserved, and a powerful new musical will find its audience right where it belongs.
In the service of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s newly formed OSS and under the guidance of master spy, William Stephenson (code name: INTREPID), Betty cut a notoriously dangerous and sexy path across America and Europe. Her exploits were sequestered for decades and helped turn the tide of the war in the Mediterranean with Operation Torch; While Bogey and Bacall were fictionally resisting the Vichy in Casablanca, Betty was historically risking everything to assure Hitler never gained control of the French fleet. Confounding as it may be, Broadway and the regional theatre lexicon have never seen a successful spy musical, but Pallas founder and Associate Artistic Director for New Musicals, Tracey Elaine Chessum, believes this could finally be the one to fill that void.
Chessum discovered code name: CYNTHIA in 2014 and selected the show as her company’s TableRead competition winner. Over the past year, her Pallas team partnered with the writers on the show’s development including multiple workshops and public readings at the Anacostia Arts Center, Ball State University in Indiana, Point Park University in Pittsburgh, and in a special presentation July 9th at the International Spy Museum, bringing this exciting project full circle and back home to D.C. From July 29-August 16th, Pallas Theatre Collective will give Washington audiences the chance to decide if Chessum is right and the time for a popular spy musical has arrived.
Audience favorite Gracie Jones is the perfect Betty – smart, stunning, and irresistible with a strong voice to match the strong role she was born to play. DCMetroTheaterArts Best Actor honoree Jason Hentrich is a sly, Machiavellian Stephenson, expertly controlling his operative and the political balance of powers in a global game of life and death. Karen Lange, Joshua Simon, Chris Oeschel, and Pallas company member Russell Silber round out the cast of socialites, ambassadors, attachés, and criminals who make up this fun and complex tale of heroism and intrigue.
Chessum’s direction is tight, action-packed, and filled with enough steam to satisfy both the story’s demands and an audience’s deep desires. Amy Conley musical directs a lush, sweeping score that fills the world stage on which the heroine’s story unfolds. Passionate and satisfying, Multer & Multer’s work is non-derivative and true to the traditional classic book musical form that inspires their award-winning writing.
code name:CYNTHIA begins performances tonight and plays through August 16, 2015, at Pallas Theatre Collective performing at the Anacostia Arts Center – 1231 Good Hope Road, SE, in Washington, DC For tickets, purchase them online.
Multer & Multer’s website.