Collaboration on ‘Dog and Pony’ looks promising at The Old Globe

By Diana Saenger

The three collaborators behind the Old Globe’s world premiere of the romantic musical comedy, “Dog and Pony,” are playwright Rick Elice, composer Michael Patrick Walker and director Roger Rees. The trio has much in common and their body of work is well noted.

The plot follows a successful screenwriting team, Mags and Andy, as their professional relationship evolves into something more. Blending three different talents on one project takes a lot of collaboration, and that’s something Elice said he enjoys doing. Elice also penned “The Addams Family,” “Peter and the Starcatcher,” and, with Marshall Brickman, co-wrote “Jersey Boys,” which won the 2006 Tony Award, 2007 Grammy Award, and 2009 Olivier Award for Best Musical.

“The screwball comedies of the 1930s and early ’40s dealt with the intimate circumstances between men and women in the workplace, who were not husband and wife,” Elice said. “In my experience, I found myself in a situation that was intimate, even romantic at times, and it seemed to supersede other relationships in our lives. Eventually, things changed from incredibly seductive to a little sour.”

It was while acting in a play by Elaine May (half of the of Mike Nichols and Elaine May comedy team) that Elice said he began to talk to her about their personal relationship.

“Her voice stuck in my head and I decided I wanted to write a story about a girl like her and a guy like me, not a marital-sanction relationship guy, and how that would wreck everything eventually,” he said.

“The pleasure for me in collaborating with Michael, a wonderful composer and lyrist who wrote ‘Altar Boyz,’ and ‘Land of Dreams,’ is the songs seem to grow out of the dialogue in a way that is stealthy, clever and not corny.

“‘Dog and Pony,’ feels very modern, but is not divisive in its structure because before you realize it, the characters are not speaking anymore they are singing.”

It was director Rees (“Julius Caesar,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor”), who got the call from The Globe’s artistic director, Barry Edelstein, who was looking for a good new musical. Rees suggested he try “Dog and Pony.”

“When Barry asked me about Roger directing I said, ‘Could I be that lucky?’ ” Elice laughed. “Roger is a wonderful director. He directed ‘Peter and the Starcatcher.’ He knows so much about the theater and is so good in the room. Actors love him.

“I think I’m hard-wired into musical theater in particular because it’s still around … as humans, we respond to sitting in the dark with other people having a socializing experience where we all witness something that’s happing before us that is probably not true, but for two hours of time, we are happy to believe it is true.”

Note: Elice’s “Jersey Boys,” the movie, hits theaters in June.


If you go:

“Dog and Pony” plays matinees and evenings through June 29 at Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park. Tickets from $35 at (619) 234-5623.