42nd Street Moon dances to a new ‘Waltz’

COURTESY DAVID ALLEN
Emily Skinner plays the lead in “Do I Hear a Waltz?” onstage at the Eureka Theatre.
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Aficionados of lesser-known musicals get a rare treat this week as 42nd Street Moon revives 1965’s “Do I Hear a Waltz?” in a limited engagement starring Tony-nominee Emily Skinner. It’s actually a second “Waltz” for Moon, which presented it in 1998 with an 11-year-old pre-“Glee” Darren Criss in a featured role.

“It’s a weird, weird piece,” says Skinner. “I mean, it was written by three of the sharpest tacks around: Richard Rodgers, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim. Laurents, who was a fairly dark and complicated person, wrote the book, which doesn’t quite match the tone of the score because Rodgers wrote these beautiful, slightly lilting, uplifting, very sort of American songs that have a happy tone to them.”

Then, there’s Sondheim, who has stated that the show suffered from a level of reluctance verging on indifference on his part. Eager to create his own musicals, he took the lyrics-only job as a favor to the late Oscar Hammerstein, a longtime Rodgers collaborator and father-figure mentor to Sondheim.

“Also, for a musical in the ’60s, it’s kind of an adult story,” says Skinner. “It’s a mature take on love that requires deeper thought. There’s a great line that the leading man says to Leona, my character: ‘You’ll never find romance if you’re being romantic.’ I think it’s a good sort of summation of the show.” The musical is sourced from the Laurents play “The Time of the Cuckoo,” which was filmed as “Summertime” with a then 48-year-old Katharine Hepburn. Skinner is years younger, but is relishing being in a phase of her career when she can play meatier musical roles.

“I’ve hit the age I sort of always wanted and now I get the ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Dolly’ and ‘Mame’ roles which is really fun. Even when I was in my 20s, I sort of couldn’t wait to get to this point.”

That’s not to say that the 20-something performer was sitting around dreaming of middle age. She made her Broadway debut as an understudy in “Jekyll & Hyde.” After, she shared a history-making joint Tony nomination with Alice Ripley for playing conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton in “Side Show,” which is returning to Broadway.

“I’m very excited for Henry Krieger and Bill Russell,” she says of the “Side Show” authors. “I feel like the show sort of never really got its due because we didn’t last long enough. I hope this time people can really appreciate it.”

IF YOU GO

Do I Hear a Waltz?

Presented by 42nd Street Moon

Where: Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St., S.F.

When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 6 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; closes Oct. 19

Tickets: $25 to $75

Contact: (415) 255-8207, www.42ndstmoon.org

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