Production announced during New Artist festival
East Haddam - Goodspeed Musicals' just-announced new musical is, to borrow a phrase, a family matter.
Julie Andrews and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, co-wrote the children's book "The Great American Mousical" that's the basis for said musical. Andrews will direct the production.
And the man who created the illustrations for the book and who will design the set and costumes for the musical is Tony Walton - Emma Walton Hamilton's father and Julie Andrews' former husband. Beyond all things relative, he also happens to be an Oscar, Tony and Emmy winner.
Goodspeed made the announcement that it will produce "The Great American Mousical" Saturday during its Festival of New Artists. The piece - about mice who stage their own musicals in the depths of the historic Sovereign Theatre - will run from Nov. 8 to Dec. 2 at Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre in Chester.
Goodspeed already has a bit of history with Andrews and Walton, which is how this new collaboration blossomed. Walton directed and designed "Where's Charley?" at the opera house in 2004. The following year, Andrews directed "The Boy Friend" on the same stage, with Walton providing design work.
Walton recalled his time at Goodspeed this way - and here's that word again: "It's a family. It has that feel to it. It doesn't always happen, but Goodspeed is sort of set up that way. It's not going to break down - it's going to be a family whatever happens."
Back when Andrews was directing "The Boy Friend," she was in the midst of wrapping the "Mousical" book. She sent an advance copy of the book to Goodspeed Associate Producer Bob Alwine. He told her, simply, that it needed to be a musical, and it should be on a Goodspeed stage. She was amenable - and remained devoted to Goodspeed, even when others came calling.
Alwine described "Mousical" as "a valentine to the musical theater."
Walton explained how Andrews dreamt up the tale.
"When Julie was in 'Victor/Victoria,' there was a mouse that kept popping up in her dressing room, and she was very worried that somebody was going to trap it or kill it," he said. "She imagined, just sort of off the cuff, that the architect's model of the theater was still down in the basement and that maybe this is one of the mice that would put on shows in that model of the theater."
Andrews wasn't at Goodspeed Saturday, but, in a Goodspeed press release, she is quoted as saying, "Emma, Tony and I had so much fun working on this book and are now overjoyed that it will come alive on the stage. I'm so blessed to be working with this creative team in adapting our book for the theatre."
The core of that creative team consists of composer Zina Goldrich and lyricist Marcy Heisler (they were named the 2009 winners of the Fred Ebb Award for outstanding songwriting) and book writer Hunter Bell (a Tony nominee for a show that really was called "[title of show]"). The trio performed several bright, witty numbers from "Mousical" as part of Saturday's festival, drawing happily enthusiastic applause from the audience.
For the past two weeks, they have been holed up in Goodspeed's new housing, working away on the project. Goldrich said they were grateful to be given time to focus on nothing else but musical theater. Bell deadpanned, "You're the first people we've seen in days."
They spoke affectionately about the source material, too, and Bell raved about how the book has "so much heart and so much love."
It's rich with theatrical references, too. Just one example: a wide-eyed intern is named Pippin. Some of the songs likewise take a cue from famous tunes; one paid homage to "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" from "My Fair Lady."
Indeed, Goodspeed is a good match for "Mousical," Walton said, because the show is "rooted in kind of old-time classical theater, and Goodspeed is geared for that."