Theatre's presentation draws visit from Broadway playwright

By Angela Nicholas

CONWAY, SC - In the 1859 Charles Dickens novel "A Tale of Two Cities" Dickens wrote "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times..." For the Main Street Theatre, it is undoubtedly going to be the most exciting of times. Expected to visit near the end of the October performance of "A Tale of Two Cities" is New York playwright Jill Santoriello who also wrote the score and lyrics for the musical that debuted on Broadway in 2008.

Tale Photo

Santoriello is the award winning author of the Broadway musical, A Tale of Two Cities, which received three Outer Critics Circle Nominations in 2008 including one for Outstanding New Broadway Musical.  A Tale of Two Cities also earned 3 Drama Desk Nominations and a Drama League nomination. The sold-out world premiere production, at Florida's historic Asolo Repertory Theatre, won numerous awards including Best Musical of the season. In 2009, Jill adapted the musical and served as Executive Producer for a PBS-special "A Tale of Two Cities - In Concert", narrated by Michael York. A DVD of the program and the CD A Tale of Two Cities - International Studio Cast Recording are available from the musical's website: and Vocal Selections are also available at Amazon.  Jill is currently developing several new musical projects including Outlander based on the best-selling novel by Diana Gabaldon. When Santoriello learned the Theatre of the Republic had the show on its season lineup, she planned to make the trip. TOR Executive Director Tim McGhee has been corresponding with Santoriello. They had a mutual friend, the late Jeff Perrine, a New York actor who came annually to visit his parents in Murrells Inlet and frequented the community theater, even performing at times. It was Perrine who encouraged McGhee to stretch his artistic talents and those of the TOR actors by presenting both "Titanic" (performed earlier this year) and "A Tale of Two Cities."

Having Santoriello visit is exciting but a bit scary for McGhee. "This is the first time I've ever had correspondence or a visit from the original playwright and composer. I'm curious to see if she will like my interpretation of her work; if I took her words on paper and brought them to life," McGhee said. McGhee added that sometimes for entertainment value or for the pacing of the show, a director uses his or her own vision and interpretation. "So, if she likes it and never thought of it that way that will be interesting. I just cannot see her not being pleased because it is her work and other people will be enjoying it."

McGhee said the theatre as well as the community is honored to have Santoriello visit. The Cypress Inn has graciously donated rooms for her stay.

One thing sure to please Santoriello is the consistent talent brought to the Conway stage and this production will be no different. "We have some new voices and some roles that are very challenging," said McGhee. "I think the audience will be very happy with the show."

Tale photo

Sponsored by Robert Lukey Photography and PCRX Computer Sales and Service, "A Tale of Two Cities" opens at 8 p.m. Oct. 14 and runs through Oct. 30, ending with a Sunday matinee just before Halloween. The adaptation of the Dickens' classic is a poignant love story between a woman, Lucie Manette (Katie Hughes)and two men from the two cities of London and Paris. The lives of the love interests, French aristocrat Charles Darnay (Nick Parker) and drunken skeptic Sydney Carton (Matthew Johnston), intertwine during a time of social and political unrest that leads to revolution, a rash of beheadings, and one man giving his life for love.

Music Director Michael Weaver helps bring to life the raw mood of the era through the contemporary, haunting music. Special effects enriched by lighting designer Brian Carter's creative skills, enhance the set, a uniquely skeletal representation of the two cities designed by McGhee. Brock Santa's costuming and JP Perez's creative hair and makeup augment the staging of a brutal time when people are starving and the rich trample on the less fortunate instigating an uprising that sparks the French Revolution.

Bringing the story to life are the characters of the revengeful Madam DeFarge (Tishala Martinal); Dr. Alexandre Manette (Mark Martinal), long lost father of Lucie, who spent 18 years in the Bastille; the Marquis St. Evremonde (Sean Smith); Jerry Cruncher (Al Nicholas), odd-job man for Tellson's Bank and "resurrection-man" at night; the Manette housekeeper (Gretchen Smith) and John Barsad (Doug Smith).

Filled with injustice, vengeance, and redemption, "A Tale of Two Cities" is the perfect late October show. Choreography is provided by Sandra Adams, sound by David Catton Johnson, and stage management by Paula Zink. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Call 488-0821 or purchase online at