Friday, July 16, 2010

Collaborating with Wicked creator Stephen Schwartz on new version of MY SON PINOCCHIO

By Jeff Frank, Artistic Director, First Stage Children's Theater

I’ve been working with award-winning composer and Wicked creator Stephen Schwartz to adapt his musical MY SON PINOCCHIO for the holiday season.  At First Stage, our best productions are enjoyed equally by young people and their parents. This is especially true for our holiday shows. Stephen's take on Pinocchio celebrates the puppet's journey to become a real boy, but it also shares Geppetto's journey to become a real parent -- a perfect fit for us.  The premise of Stephen's new version of Pinocchio, coupled with the fact that the show's first big musical number takes place in Geppetto's Toy Shop led me to think, 'why not set this show during the holiday season?'  The show has tremendous heart and humor and it celebrates family, which translates beautifully into a holiday story for the stage.
 
Photo of Stephen Schwartz by Joan Lauren.

Thankfully, Stephen agreed.  In April, I flew out to New York for a meeting with Stephen, and we discussed the overall plan. He then gave me a copy of the Junior version which he had just completed with book writer David Stern. He shared that he was able to include some elements in that version that he hadn’t been able to in his original version – for example, the Blue Fairy has four young fairies in training in this new version – and he gave me permission to use pieces of each adaptation as I worked on the new holiday version.
 
For the past three months, we've been working on the script.  Other changes include beginning the story with Geppetto introducing his new holiday collection of toys to the children of the village, Geppetto wishing on the Christmas Star, transforming Stromboli's Puppet show to a Holiday Extravaganza, and creating the set, costumes and lighting design with the feeling of winter in a small mountain village in Italy.

Throughout this whole process, Stephen has been great to work with.  I sent him a draft of our new version in late May as he headed off to Australia, and despite his amazingly busy schedule, he found time to look it over and get back to me with his thoughts and notes. Here’s part of what he had to say: 
Dear Jeff: I went through the Holiday Version of MY SON PINOCCHIO while I was out of the country, and I am delighted to say I think it's terrific. I think you've done a very clever job of making it suitable as a Christmas show without overdoing it. Thanks again, and I am very much looking forward to seeing this Holiday Version on stage! Best regards, Stephen
I must say it has been an honor and a privilege to work with Stephen, and we eagerly anticipate this production and his visit to our theater this holiday season.

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