The stage is stark and cold—dark but visible. Chairs and dozens of musical instruments sit against a circular back wall. At the right, a piano. At the left, a steep, winding staircase with a black, leafy, wrought-iron banister. It twists its way up at least two stories above the stage finally disappearing into the ceiling and a shaft of simulated daylight. We are intrigued, and Ten Cents a Dance, the third and final production on the Main Stage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, has yet to begin. We know what the instruments are for. Ten Cents a Dance is a John Doyle-conceived and directed musical. As in his revivals of Company and Sweeney Todd, both of which won him a Tony, his singer-musicians accompany themselves.
Did it all start with Ezio Pinza – this crossover practice of opera stars singing American musical theatre? Pinza certainly was the most famous, making ladies of the late 1940s swoon in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific. The latest crossover explorer is Deborah Voigt singing the role of Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun at Glimmerglass. Playing Annie gives her something in common with Susan Lucci, the soap opera actress; Reba McEntire, the country singer; as well as Ethel Merman. Unexpected company for an internationally renowned dramatic soprano.