The plot line to “Front Page Flo” sounds eerily familiar.
In post-World War II New York City, a rambunctious reporter named Flo is hungry for her big break. So when word hits the wires that a Soviet spy has landed in Manhattan, Flo follows the clues to get the scoop — and discovers more than she bargained for.
“I swear to God this was before Trump and the whole Russia thing,” said George Pinney, who serves as the writer, director and choreographer of this 1940s tap dance musical.
“Front Page Flo,” the final big show of the Adirondack Theatre Festival, will take to the stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3 and Saturday, Aug. 4 with more shows Aug. 7-9 and a 2 p.m. matinee on Aug. 8 at the Charles R. Wood Theater in Glens Falls.
Pinney and the cast of 13 singers and dancers — the largest cast of any ATF show — rehearsed a tap dance number upstairs Tuesday at the Wood Theater with reporters’ notebooks in their hands and tap shoes on their feet.
Pinney is a director and choreographer who was nominated for a 2001 Tony Award and National Broadway Theatre Award in choreography. He received an Emmy Award for outstanding choreography for the PBS broadcast of “Blast!” Pinney recently retired as professor of theater and drama and head of the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater program at Indiana University.
Natalie Storrs plays Flo, described in the song as “a tried and true company girl,” the ace reporter who always gets the scoop and the headline.
“Actually, there were quite a number of women journalists in the ‘40s because everyone was at war,” Pinney said. “And then even going further, Russian espionage really started in the ‘20s and started becoming full blast in the ‘40s, so historically, it’s just really interesting.”
Pinney said his fellow writers, Larry and Sara Kass, originally wrote “Front Page Flo” with a different, more serious story line. But as the writers talked, the story turned into the fun, toe-tapping, bright musical making its debut in Glens Falls this week.
“The whole point of the Adirondack Theatre Festival is new work,” Pinney said, “so this is a chance to really put it in front of a great audience, and I’ll come away from this with a lot of information about how I can make it even better.”
“Front Page Flo” is unlike any musical ever to hit the stage at the Adirondack Theatre Festival, said Chad Rabinovitz, ATF’s producing artistic director. He wanted the Glens Falls audience to know what it would be like to see a show like “Guys and Dolls” for its very first performance.
“What was it like to be a part of “Hello, Dolly!” for the very first time, before it hit Broadway?” Rabinovitz said. “To be able to say, ‘I was the first ever to see that.’ ”
“Flo” is a never-before-seen, brand-new classical musical, he said.
The music and lyrics, also arranged by Larry Kass, stay true to the 1940s style. Kass writes in the style of George Gershwin and Cole Porter, Pinney said.
“You really get the nostalgia of the period with the music,” Pinney said. “So it’s not contemporary music being hijacked into a 1940s musical. It’s the real deal.”
And so is the dancing, choreographed by Pinney, with tapographer Nathan Mittleman capturing the flavor of the time period. The talented cast has Broadway credits, national credits and international credits. The show also boasts a Charleston number, a waltz and a dream ballet ala Agnes de Mille.
“It feels like you’re watching a classic musical,” Rabinovitz said. “The music takes the lead. Every single song is an earworm. You know, one of those songs that you can’t get out. If you don’t leave humming tunes, I think you might be hard of hearing.”
Pinney said this country is ready for a musical like “Front Page Flo.”
“It’s two hours jam-packed with music, dancing, jokes,” he said, “with a subliminal political message that I wasn’t intending.”
The musical is not at all a political statement, Rabinovitz clarified.
“It was legit written before all of this,” he added. “So I think it’s more of an omen that George has the ability to predict the future.”