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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 65.0° F  Fair


A guy thing
James Kaplan and Fred Alley revisit the Wisconsin male in The Bachelors

Revenge of the pizza-delivery girl.
Revenge of the pizza-delivery girl.
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The Bachelors is the final installment in the 'men in isolation' trilogy of musicals by James Kaplan and the late Fred Alley. Kaplan admits it's ironic this one didn't make it to Madison sooner. After all, the musical (which runs Dec. 1-17 at UW Vilas Hall's Mitchell Theatre) is set here. Furthermore, Alley/Kaplan efforts have been box-office gold in Madison, from Lumberjacks in Love to Guys on Ice.

But somehow a production never happened. Kaplan says the Madison Repertory Theatre showed interest in The Bachelors after the phenomenal success of Guys on Ice, but those preliminary plans were upended by scheduling problems and staff turnover. 'It just never fell into place,' he says.

Tired of waiting for someone else to take the initiative, Kaplan decided to produce the musical himself after mounting Guys on Ice on his own.

Having spent much of the '90s composing music for Alley's lyrics and collaborating on Wisconsin-oriented stories for Door County's American Folklore Theater, the New Jersey-bred Kaplan is something of an honorary Badger. But despite the many Madison references, The Bachelors' tale of two perpetual adolescents and their infatuation with a local pizza-delivery girl isn't strictly Wisconsin-oriented. It's more citified than Kaplan's other work with Alley, and he says it's largely based on the time the two bunked together in California.

'I met Fred in Berkeley,' he notes. 'We shared a studio apartment one winter. The plot in the show never happened to us, but we got together and brainstormed about what we did and the things that guys do in that kind of situation. A lot of it made it into the show.'

This version of The Bachelors stars Doug Mancheski and Steve Koehler, who've both charmed audiences with previous performances in Guys on Ice.

Since Alley's death in 2001, Kaplan has spent much of his time overseeing productions of their work, both in and out of state. But he's not concerned about becoming trapped by their old successes. He says returning to his collaborations with Alley is actually a way of honoring his late friend.

'I don't think you ever really fully process the death of someone important,' says Kaplan, who plans to work on more-urban fare in the future. 'But doing his shows is a wonderful way of keeping his spirit alive.'

Shine a light

During trips back to his hometown, Madison native Kris Warren was always disappointed to see that nothing had been done about the Orpheum Theatre's dilapidated marquee. Having seen firsthand what it takes to maintain an ornate 1920s Rapp and Rapp movie palace while working at the theater in the mid-'90s, Warren didn't blame Orpheum owner Henry Doane for not undertaking the expensive restoration. Even so, he writes in an e-mail: 'With the first two blocks of State Street holding so much of Madison's history, having the Orpheum marquee shining bright above it is really in the best interest of everyone in Madison.'

In order to move forward on refurbishing the marquee and restoring the theater's large vertical sign to its original condition, Warren has helped organize a red-carpet, movie-premiere-style fund-raiser at the theater on Dec. 12. The ticketed event will include an advance screening of director McG's We Are Marshall. (The choice of film is no accident. Warren currently works in Los Angeles as director of TV development for McG's Wonderland Sound and Vision.)

Warren figures that the complete restoration should cost $100,000 to $150,000. Along with the Madison Trust for Historic Preservatio, he's also pursuing donations from corporations and individuals. He writes that an unnamed downtown Madison organization is considering matching donations totaling up to $25,000.

Warren doesn't have a timetable in mind for the restoration project. If the fund-raiser goes well or a couple of generous donors step up to the plate, he hopes work on both the marquee and the sign could get under way shortly. But he adds that, if necessary, the two projects could be done in phases.

Tickets for the fund-raiser are available through Search on 'Orpheum' or We Are Marshall for purchasing information.

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