Broadway Creative Teams Go to… Indiana?
CARMEL, Ind. – What are Broadway stars Christy Altomare and Corey Cott doing for a weekend in this mid-sized town in central Indiana between the workshops of a new Broadway musical?
They have cake. And steak.
In this order.
“I’m pretty sure Corey lived in the Cake Bake Shop this week,” said Joel Kirk, the founder of Discovering Broadway, a nonprofit that brings New York actors and creative musical teams to. Broadway in Indiana to work on their shows. In progress.
Sunday night, as New York’s biggest stages remained dark, Altomare (“Anastasia”), Cott (“Bandstand”) and five members of the creative team for the Broadway musical “Ever After” performed eight songs. of Cinderella from the Renaissance era. story, with sheet music printed hours before, for two fully vaccinated audiences at Feinstein’s at the Carmichael Hotel, an upscale nightclub named after artist Michael Feinstein, artistic director of the Center for the Performing Arts located in proximity.
Amid the clicking glasses, soft purple lighting, waiters in black vests over white buttons and black masks, and women in heels – heels! – the composer of the musical, Zina Goldrich, played the piano like Altomare, Cott and the the rest of the team sang numbers like “My Cousin’s Cousin” and “Right Before My Eyes” as well as songs written the day before, including a new finale.
It was the first time many of them had performed live since March 2020.
“It’s so good to see everyone’s faces again,” Cott said.
“Ever After” was the second Broadway musical to bring its creative team to Carmel for a weeklong workshop. The team of “The Devil Wears Prada”, the musical based on the 2006 film about the aspiring young woman of Anne Hathaway, played against the ice queen of the fashion world of Meryl Streep, visited in February .
Except for a very important absentee.
Sir Elton John, the Tony Prize-winning composer for the musical, “was unable to attend,” Kirk said, although her husband, David Furnish, one of the musical’s producers, responded to inquiries. Zoom calls from Great Britain. (Paul Rudnick, who co-wrote the book, was also absent.) It was a missed opportunity for the composer to visit the state where musicals like “The Prom” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater ”by Kurt Vonnegut.
“He’ll just come back,” Kirk said. “I would love to show him Carmel.
The Discovering Broadway initiative, which Kirk founded in late 2019, is part of an effort by the 26-year-old New York producer and director to bring top-notch talent to his hometown.
Kevin McCollum, a producer of “Rent”, “Avenue Q” and “In the Heights” as well as “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Ever After”, said the biggest advantage of workshops in Indiana was their ability to focus. targeted, without people leaving early or arriving late due to other commitments.
“It’s like the filet mignon of time,” he told the audience during Sunday’s 5:30 pm performance. “The A5 Wagyu $ 120 8 ounces long.”
McCollum brought the “Prada” team to Carmel for the first Broadway Discovery Workshop in February, ahead of the musical’s 2022 premiere at the James M. Nederlander Theater in Chicago. It was the first time that Shaina Taub (“Twelfth night” at the public theater), who wrote the lyrics; Nadia DiGiallonardo, the musical director; James Alsop, the choreographer; Kate Wetherhead, who co-wrote the book; and Anna D. Shapiro, the director, were together in a play.
“We were trying to figure out what we needed to do to keep the show going,” Alsop said. “Kevin was like, ‘Carmel, Indiana!’ And we were like “What?” Then we got there, and it was like a movie set.
After a mutual friend introduced him to McCollum in 2019, Kirk got a call from the producer in late January asking if he could organize a weeklong retreat for the ‘Prada’ creative team – in 17 days.
Kirk’s response: Yes.
“I wanted to come back to the pandemic and say, ‘Wow, we got’ The Devil Wears Prada ‘before it comes back to Broadway,” he said.
With the coronavirus vaccine not yet widely available, team members wore masks and were regularly tested before, during and after their stay at Carmel. Taub said the precautions, combined with heavy snowfall and 20-degree temperatures, meant the team essentially stayed at the hotel all week – and worked well beyond the usual 10-hour schedule. a.m. to 6 p.m.
“I would wake up in the morning with words in my head, then fall asleep with words,” she says.
Three months later, McCollum brought a second crew to Carmel for the workshop “Ever After,” a feminist Cinderella story based on the 1998 film that starred Drew Barrymore, with the goal of hosting a concert by here the end of the year. And this time, the sunny skies and balmy temperatures meant they could actually explore.
Wetherhead, who wrote the book with Marcy Heisler, took long walks on the Monon Trail, a 27-mile section of an old railroad track – then returned to the hotel with ideas. Heisler, who also wrote the lyrics, wrote nearby Eggshell Bistro, on a sunny terrace at the Carmichael Hotel and in her own room at 3 am “We were working eight hours a day,” she says. “But not 9 to 5”. (There was time for steak breaks at Anthony’s Chophouse and Monterey Coastal Cuisine, she said.)
The musical has already had two stints out of town, at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in 2015 and at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta in 2019. New York Times critic Charles Isherwood described the production of Paper Mill’s “bland”, with a score that “fades into memory almost instantly. “
But Cott, who arrived with Altomare on Friday and taught a masterclass for local students, said this version was a “radical change” from previous staging. Goldrich, the songwriter, and Heisler, known for their children’s musicals “Dear Edwina” and “Junie B. Jones,” wrote five new songs, and the rest of the crew, including director Marlo Hunter (“American Reject ), Collaborated on revamping much of the rest of the musical, including writing a new finale.
Unlike New York City, where the visiting audience is often made up of Broadway theater owners and actors, Kirk said the goal was to share the work with the Carmelite arts community, which is home to the Great American Songbook Foundation of Feinstein and hosts a prestigious summer vocal competition based on Broadway and Hollywood musicals. (According to Kirk, 80% of the “Ever After” audience members were residents of central Indiana who were not contributors to the organization.) Discovering Broadway also purchases youth tickets and funds. scholarships in master classes taught by visiting artists.
“I create opportunities that I would have jumped on growing up in Carmel,” Kirk said.
Kirk, who remains the sole employee of Discovering Broadway, said more than 60 Broadway productions have inquired about the possibility of residencies in Indiana in the year and a half since he founded the organization. nonprofit, which has an annual budget of between $ 350,000 and $ 400,000. Her goal is to do three workshops per year in the Indianapolis area.
Each retreat can cost over $ 50,000 to explore Broadway. (The organization covers the team’s travel and accommodation costs and also provides a per diem and artist allowance.)
“But $ 50,000 is nothing for the experience and investment we are able to provide to the community,” Kirk said.
Kirk lined up two corporate sponsors for each workshop; received five grants, including from the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation and the Central Indiana Community Foundation; and enlisted over 50 individual donors, all through relentless agitation. He estimates that he had around 628 meetings in the first four months of the organization. In the fall, he hopes to host a workshop that mixes New York leads with a local cast of six to eight actors, as well as local musicians.
“The goal is to create a bridge,” he said, “to bring two communities together to create a third.”
Towards the end of Sunday night’s performance, Altomare and Cott sang the new finale, shaking hands, their faces almost touching. They moved closer to each other, their lips parted a few inches – then they hugged each other.
“I’ll tell you they kiss at the end of Act 1,” McCollum said on stage. “But you have to pay for it; it will not happen here. He added, “Seeing that kiss is worth at least $ 100.”
“Sold!” shouted a woman in the audience.