Answering the question, "Where do babies come from?" may be one of the most difficult moments of young parents' lives. But answering the question, "Where do new musicals come from," ...now that's a challenge!
One place new musicals come from is Stamford, CT: Curtain Call has birthed many new musicals during executive/artistic director Lou Ursone's tenure, but conceiving them is another story. And area residents will have the chance to see another new work - The Man With The Glass Heart - when it premieres at Curtain Call's Dressing Room Theatre, May 4.
Ursone first read Glass Heart about five years ago. Stamford resident, George Bradt wrote the book, music and lyrics and sent it to Ursone after attending a Musical Monday event. From then, until now, Bradt has written and re-written scenes, cut songs, added new ones and even cut characters. It's an evolutionary process. "These things take time," Ursone said, noting that it took Lin-Manuel Miranda six years to write Hamilton.) Ursone said that a new scene was added just this week.
When it comes to conception, new musicals are often based on plays, novels, films or even short stories. "The original inspiration for The Man With The Glass Heart was Steve Job’s Stanford commencement address," said Bradt. "In that speech he told three stories: 1) dropping out of university, 2) getting kicked out of his company and 3) facing death," Bradt added.
The Man with the Glass Heart is about a father and son growing up, letting go, accepting and appreciating. "The father in our story works his whole life in a quarry in 5th century Germany to give his son a better life. The son goes to university, drops out, and invents modern glass making. The musical tracks the ups, downs, and ups of his progress and relationships with his father and others," said Bradt.
Curtain Call has presented dozens of original pieces through staged concert readings. Many of them have gone on to be presented as full scale productions, which is how The Man With The Glass Heart came to be included in Curtain Call's current season. It was presented as part of their Musical Mondays series. Other recent presentations that have gone on to full productions are Baby Bump (formerly know as Blindsided by a Diaper), Merrily Mannerly, and Ursone's A Merry Mulberry Street Musical.
"I think producing new works is one of the most exciting things we do," Ursone said. "I love working with authors, composers and lyricists on developing original material, in spite of the many inherent challenges that exist," he added. Finding the right director, music director etc. to work on new works is also very important. "Hiring Karen Randazzo and Eric Johnston to direct and music direct (respectively) was a no-brainer for me," Ursone said. Both have extensive backgrounds in developing new works and have worked with Ursone for more than 30 years.
Watching one's original work come to life is an amazing process...like following a pregnancy...with a much longer gestation. "The journey from Stanford to Stamford has been long and thrilling and frustrating and wonderful," said Bradt. He feels that the play has continued to get better with input from all the people that helped birth it’s original concert reading at Curtain Call to the people that have provided comments along the way, to the amazing directors, crew and cast bringing it to life now. "What you’ll see in May has their finger prints all over it. If it moves you half as much as it moves us, our efforts will have been worth it," Bradt added.
The actors have loved the challenge of creating these characters from scratch. Working with no preconceived notions (or recordings) is very freeing for them. At the heart of this production, as father and son, are Trumbull resident, Peter Randazzo as William, the father, and New York resident, Danny Grumich, as Victor, the son. Others in the cast include Marilyn Olsen as the mother, Rae, Jon Garrity as other son, Kurt, and Alexandra Imbrosci-Viera as Victor's love interest, Mindy. The ensemble includes Lucas Cafaro, Harrison Gilberti, John Royse and RJ Vercellone. In addition to Randazzo and Johnston, the rest of the production team includes production design by Peter Barbieri, Jr., costumes by Helen Adams, and stage management by Lindy Fruithandler.
The Man with the Glass Heart will play in The Dressing Room Theatre, May 4 through 14, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00m and Sunday afternoon, April 23 at 2:00pm. Seating in The Dressing Room Theatre is cabaret-style with a BYOEverything format. Doors open one hour before curtain time. Regular prices are $32 for adults, $25 for senior citizens and $16 for children. Thursday evenings, all seats $25. Box Office: 203-461-6358 or online at www.curtaincallinc.com. The final production in Curtain Call’s 2016-2017 season is the Neil Simon, Tony Award-winning musical comedy, Sweet Charity.