Michael Mahler is one of the rising new lights of the international musical theater scene. He's already a big deal in Chicago, where he lives, and he was recently tapped to write additional lyrics for Cameron Mackintosh's new staging of "Miss Saigon" that opens this weekend in London.
He's in Sarasota now, serving as musical director for "Hero," the upcoming show from Asolo Repertory Theatre.
Mahler also wrote the music and lyrics for "Hero," which has a book by Aaron Thielen. It's had only one previous performance, in Chicago, where it was a huge hit, winning two Jefferson Awards, including Best New Musical.
David H. Bell, who heads the musical theater program at Northwestern University, directed both productions of "Hero." Local audiences may remember the Asolo production of the Bell-penned musical "Fanny Brice: America's Funny Girl" two years ago.
The drama revolves around Hero Batowski, a 28-year-old unpublished comic book artist. He and his father run a not-too-successful comic book store. Hero chronicles his existence with a journal in comic form, but doesn't think his work is good enough to send to publishers.
There's a painful incident in his past that he can't get over, but an unexpected twist forces him to take control of his life.
Details: May 2-June 1, the Mertz Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Show times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, 8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $26 to $73. Information: 941-351-8000, www.asolorep.org.
-- Marty Clear