Friday, August 15, 2008

In NYC with Harry Connick, Jr.'s THE HAPPY ELF


Posted by Jeff Frank, Artistic Director

Over the past couple seasons we have rededicated ourselves to the development of new plays. And one of our most exciting projects is coming this holiday season and we are hard at work.

On Monday I flew to New York City to meet Director John Rando (Tony winner for URINETOWN), playwright Andrew Fishman and Grammy award winning singer/actor/musician Harry Connick, Jr.

Harry Connick, Jr.’s THE HAPPY ELF premiered at the Coterie Theater last December, and we approached Harry and Andrew about bringing the show to Milwaukee. We all agreed that there were some significant changes we wanted to make to the script and we hired John Rando to help us further develop the piece. Over the last six months they have all been hard at work. Harry wrote six new songs for the show and Andrew worked on refining and clarifying the book. All of their work was on display Monday as we listened to a read and sing of the script. (Special thanks to Manhattan Theatre Club for hosting us!) We were able to assemble an amazing cast for the reading:

Derrick Baskin – currently Jetsam in LITTLE MERMAID on Broadway
David Beach – from the Broadway productions of URINETOWN and MAMMA MIA
Peter Benson – Prez in the Broadway revival of PAJAMA GAME
Kevin Cahoon – George in THE WEDDING SINGER and the Childcatcher in CHITTY, CHITTY BANG BANG on Broadway
Rachel Coloff – Broadway credits include URINETOWN and LESTAT
Danielle Ferland – Little Red in the original production of INTO THE WOODS
Stacie Morgain Lewis – Broadway credits include URINETOWN and TITANIC
Eddie Korbich - currently Scuttle in LITTLE MERMAID
Michael Leon Wooley – most recently the voice of the Plant in the revival of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

Quite a wonderful group who had a great deal of fun working with John and with the music director Fred Lassen. The reading went extremely well. I was thrilled with the changes that Andrew and Harry had made. The actors were universal in their praise of the piece, commenting that they were looking forward to the show coming to New York (that is certainly a hope) and what a great fit it is for family audiences!

Talking with Harry, he’s convinced the show, “Is a hit!” And he thanked everyone for their work on the project. He plans to make his way to Milwaukee sometime during the run to see the show in production.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this project. It will be the “can’t miss” holiday ticket for families this year. The main character Eubie’s struggle to make the sleigh team while trying to save the city of Bluesville is hilarious and touching – and ultimately about discovering that what we think we might want most isn’t really the most important thing.
The music, to no one’s surprise, is incredible. I guarantee you will leave the Todd Wehr Theater tapping your toes, singing and smiling.

Look for future blog updates for a sneak peak at the set and costumes – and perhaps even listen to some of the songs from Harrry Connick, Jr.’s THE HAPPY ELF!

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