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'City Center Voices!' Reads Plays

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Tony-nominated actor Alec Baldwin loves the City Center Encores! series of musical theatre concerts, but they leave him frustrated. "As an actor, I long to be a part of it," he has said, "but I don't dance and I don't sing." Never one to give up easily, he hit upon the solution of creating a similar series—but with classic plays being performed instead of classic musicals.

The series, to be called City Center Voices!, will differ from the musical series in that plays will be presented for one performance only, instead of five. The first production, Nov. 11, will be Joseph Kesselring's murder mystery-comedy, "Arsenic and Old Lace." Baldwin will play the lead role of Mortimer, the frantic nephew of two murderous, if well-meaning, spinsters. Cary Grant played the role in the 1944 film.

The other plays in the series will be Jules Feiffer's "Little Murders," on Jan. 30, 2001, and "The Devil and Daniel Webster" by Stephen Vincent Benet, on March 13, 2001. All plays will be staged, as Baldwin put it, with "no sets, no costumes, no lavish production budget," under the direction of Steve Lawson.

Lawson has worked with Baldwin before, as director of the Manhattan Theatre Club's "Writer in Performance" series in which Baldwin played F. Scott Fitzgerald, and on a 1987 production of "A Study in Scarlet" at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

City Center is still working out the details for the series, including a final determination about what kind of contract it will offer performers. Casting will be done in-house, as is the case with the Encores! series.

Subscription tickets for the entire Voices! series will go on sale Tues., Sept. 5 at the City Center box office, located on 55th St. between the Avenue of the Americas and Seventh Avenue. Individual tickets will go on sale Oct. 2. Additional information is available by phone at (212) 581-1212 or online at www.citycenter.org.

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