TIME Theater

How the Drew Barrymore Movie Ever After Became a New Musical

Jerry Dalia

"It's not about the crown and the pumpkin and all that stuff"

Ever After: A Cinderella Story, the 1998 Drew Barrymore vehicle, was ahead of its time. Long before Frozen made princesses cool (sorry) again by providing heroines that weren’t defined by their quest for a prince, Ever After told the story of Danielle de Barbarac, who was allegedly (as the film tells it) the inspiration behind the Cinderella tale. Danielle had no magical aid, just a love of books, a sense of social justice and a friendship with Leonardo da Vinci. And now her story has been put to song in a musical, which is running at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey.

“What’s really terrific about the film, and what we tried to do in the musical is she’s not waiting for someone to rescue her: this is someone who takes responsibility for herself and good things come to her because she is not waiting for someone to rescue her, in fact I think she rescues the prince,” composer Zina Goldrich told TIME. “That indeed has already become cliched these days.”

Ever After, the film, still has its fans. Last year HitFix published “4 reasons to watch ‘Ever After’ again instead of Disney’s awful ‘Cinderella’ remake” and Danielle landed on BuzzFeed’s list of “The 13 Most Dreamy Female Movie Heroines You Once Worshipped.” Goldrich and Marcy Heisler, who wrote the musical’s book and lyrics, talked to TIME about Danielle’s story.

TIME: What drew you to this project and to adapting this film?

Heisler: It’s so hard to say in that there are so many wonderful things about the project. We all have our own Cinderella stories. I think that the idea of real people making their own magic and having love be really what’s obtained. It’s not about the crown and the pumpkin and all that stuff. It’s about treating yourself and it’s about having the self respect of feeling like you deserve all of this, that you deserve love.
Goldrich: When the movie came out I went to see it with my mother and my sister because we thought, this looks great. I looked around and I saw all these other mothers, daughters, friends going to see it. I loved the movie so much. Even then when I saw it I thought it just sang. I thought there were so many really beautiful things about it. Not because of magic, because of these are true emotions, real things, these are real people not just a fairy tale.

How did you go about tackling it?

Goldrich: The thing that I liked about it was it has a very modern feel to it even though it takes place pre-Renaissance. That’s kind of what I wanted to do with the music. I wanted it to feel like flavors of the Renaissance, but through a modern filter, through my own filter in the music.

Was there anything from the film you felt you had to change or get rid of?

Heisler: The funny thing is when I look at the adaptation from a scriptwriting standpoint the first thing you realize in this film, is that there are horses everywhere.

What moments in the film jumped out at you as potential musical moments?

Goldrich: I think one of the first moments was when she dresses up and goes to the court for that first time and she’s very evasive talking about her cousin. We felt there was something really quirky and fun about that. There was something fresh and interesting about that, which wasn’t like your typical boy-meets-girl kind of story. Even though it ultimately becomes that it seems a little unlikely at the beginning. Like, wouldn’t everybody want to talk to the prince? and she is literally trying to get away as fast as she can.

What do you think it is about princess stories that still draw people in? We just had a new Cinderella movie with a traditional bent. How do you think Ever After solves some of the problems with them?

Goldrich: Cinderella is one of the oldest stories ever. I think deep down everyone wants to be, not rescued, but they want to feel that all their dreams come true essentially. What’s really terrific about the film, and what we tried to do in the musical is she’s not waiting for someone to rescue her: this is someone who takes responsibility for herself and good things come to her because she is not waiting for someone to rescue her. In fact, I think she rescues the prince. That indeed has already become cliched these days.

A lot of people look for the feminism in princess stories. Was there anything that you wanted to highlight as part of Danielle’s personality to bring out her feminist qualities?

Heisler: It’s hard to say. One of the first songs we wrote for the piece was “Who Needs Love?” I think usually that’s the place for “Someday My Prince Will Come.” I think that taking this character in a very modern way of not admitting she wants something to admitting she wants something, and I think in certain ways that’s feminist in that it’s not even about taking the power, it’s about figuring out if we want it, or if we can have it and all of that and I think that’s a road unto itself.

One of the reasons the movie was praised was that the prince and Danielle develop a rapport before falling in love. The Chicago Reader wrote that Danielle “develops a convincing intellectually based friendship with the prince.” How did you seek to portray that on stage?

Heisler: I think the meet-cutes between the characters are very structured and they are sung because they are so important, and I think at first they have a political conversation that gets into him baiting her and having a very intellectualized flirtation, and then their next meeting they go to a monastery and they talk about books.

Do you have songs in those meetings?

Heisler: Yes, and I think you see their intimacy develop in a very intelligent way. The song about them falling in love takes place in the monastery where she’s explaining to him how she’s remembering her father and her father’s love of books and sharing intimacy by sharing memories and sharing things that were very important in their lives not just, ‘your eyes are blue.’

Were there any moments musically that were challenging for you to crack?

Goldrich: I think the death of her father is a very difficult subject. It’s obviously a landmark moment in her life and shapes who she is and her circumstances, but on stage, you don’t get close ups you don’t get to cut away so there are a lot of requirements that have to be dealt with very deftly. But it’s important to know why the stepmother has such anger toward her stepdaughter.
Heisler: I do think that one of the Ever After strengths is that we really do see the loss of her father in a way that we don’t see and it humanizes her. By showing the audience what she’s lost we are much more intimately involved in what she finds. I think it’s more personalized as an audience member to know what she carries with her in her heart as she experiences all the things we see in the film.

Do you think people who are nostalgic for the film will like this telling?

Heisler: I promise at least at this moment the phrase “just breathe” is indeed in the musical.

[GIF via]

TIME Music

Hear Christina Aguilera’s New Song from Finding Neverland The Album: Premiere

The singer reimagines "Anywhere But Here" from the Broadway musical

When TIME spoke to Christina Aguilera earlier this year, she mentioned that she missed the Grammys in order to meet a deadline for a soundtrack. Her contribution to Finding Neverland The Album, out June 9, may have been what kept her busy in the studio. Aguilera’s rendition of “Anywhere But Here” from the Broadway musical about the man behind Peter Pan, premiering at TIME today, rounds out a new companion album of re-imagined Finding Neverland songs from John Legend, Jennifer Lopez, Jon Bon Jovi and others.

Glee’s Matthew Morrison performs the song as the opening number in this stage adaptation of the 2004 film, but Aguilera makes the song her own with an interpretation that recalls the many emotional piano ballads she’s recorded throughout her career. Hear her take on the song in the lyric video, above.

TIME Theater

A Musical Adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada May Be Hitting Broadway Soon

Producer Kevin McCollum attends the 2015 Tony Awards Meet The Nominees Press Reception at the Paramount Hotel on April 29, 2015 in New York City.
Bryan Bedder—Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions Producer Kevin McCollum attends the 2015 Tony Awards Meet yhe Nominees press reception at the Paramount Hotel on April 29, 2015, in New York City

Kevin McCollum also has his sights set on a rework of Mrs. Doubtfire

A musical adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada could soon be in the pipeline after top Broadway producer Kevin McCollum said he hoped to give the film the stage treatment.

McCollum, 53, whose shows include Rent and Avenue Q, told the Associated Press that he is hoping to develop a stage musical of the 2006 hit film, which tells of a bright-eyed journalist (played by Anne Hathaway) who becomes co-assistant to powerful and unbearable fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep).

The four-time Tony winner entered into a partnership with 20th Century Fox in 2013 and is currently backing the stage version of 1998 fairytale movie Ever After, which starred Drew Barrymore.

Performances are set to begin later this month at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. McCollum is also backing the Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Musical at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis.

McCollum also has his sights set on reworking for the stage the loveable 1993 comedy Mrs. Doubtfire, which starred the late Robin Williams.

[AP]

TIME Theater

Alison Bechdel on Fun Home, Her New Book and That Famous Test

"Fun Home " demonstration at College of Charleston
Alice Keeney—The Washington Post/Getty Images Alison Bechdel at a rehearsal for the musical Fun Home on April 21, 2014 in Charleston, SC.

In conversation with the artist whose life story has become a Broadway sensation

Alison Bechdel has been making comics for decades. But the artist has achieved her highest level of public attention to date for a very different kind of project.

The recently-opened musical Fun Home, which received a field-leading 12 Tony nominations this week, is based upon Bechdel’s 2006 graphic memoir. The show, like the book, depicts Bechdel’s upbringing in a Pennsylvania funeral home, under the parenting of a repressed mother and a closeted gay father, and shows Bechdel’s childhood, coming-of-age in college and struggles to reckon with it all as an adult.

It’s a moving portrait of a dysfunctional family, one that maintains the mordant tone of Bechdel’s book while expanding boundlessly outward into physical space. Bechdel, who is at work on a new memoir, spoke to TIME from her home in Vermont on the day the Tony nominations were handed out.

TIME: Did the personal nature of this project make it difficult for you to allow another artist to adapt it?

Alison Bechdel: I approach this whole thing with a mixture of naivete and trust—trust that turned out to be well-founded. I had no real reason to think it would. I feel really lucky.

Did you know, or care, much about theater before this experience?

I came from a theatrical family, but I never took a passionate interest in it. That was part of why I signed on for this. I didn’t really know what I was getting into. It was clear this was a completely different medium. If it was film, I might have have been more territorial.

Do you feel as though you’re watching your own life experience onstage, or experiencing it at a sort of aesthetic remove?

I expected to feel a remove, and I expected to feel a remove from the story. My first exposure was listening to the score on a CD. I was devastated. I’ve watched it evolve over the years and there have been moments when I felt it wasn’t clicking and many when it was. On the whole, I feel like it’s incredibly faithful to my story. Even objectively, it’s an amazing adaptation. It captures the essence of my book. What [playwright] Lisa [Kron] and [composer] Jeanine [Tesori] did was they took my book all apart, found the things that made it work and put it all back together somehow.

Did you worry in moments it wasn’t clicking that you’d made a mistake?

The first time I saw it in a workshop at the Public Theater—or a reading—I’m such a theatrical idiot, I can’t keep these straight—the first time with actors reading and singing was really good. Because I’d seen it stronger, I had faith that it would get back there, because the first experience was so positive.

Your published work has dealt with various stages of your life, but I think fans of yours might be interested in learning more about your life today. Do you have interest in writing along those lines in the future?

It kind of does interest me! I’m working on a memoir right now ostensibly about physical fitness and the body. It will be about my life in the recent past. I think it’s going to touch on some strange stuff happening in my career. I shouldn’t really talk about that; I’m talking and not writing.

There are three actresses playing you on Broadway at present. Do you see a throughline when looking back at your past selves, or as though it’s a series of skins you’ve shed?

I see the connection very clearly. That’s what’s so interesting to me about seeing the play is seeing all of the selves on stage at once. I feel like I still am that 10-year-old and that 20-year-old.

How do you feel about the “Bechdel test,” and the fact that people who may have no familiarity with your work are so closely acquainted with a tossed-off line from one of your older comics?

The Bechdel test is kind of strange. It’s funny—the students I run into don’t know my comics but recognize me because of that test. It’s an odd thing: I can’t get too excited about it for some reason. My agent tried to get me to do a book about it, but I’m just not interested enough in the test or in movies to do anything with it. I don’t feel like it’s really mine. I probably watch as many movies as anybody.

Does being in the public eye to the degree that you are allow you to live more honestly, or place restraints on your life and work?

On a very practical level, all this stuff is so time-consuming—doing so much publicity and going to New York, so I don’t get time to work. Spending time being a famous person, I’m not generating much biographical material. It’s not a story anyone’s interested in. I really need to retreat a bit and get into a more contemplative mindset.

You’re not necessarily interested in theater, you said, but is there any connection between your family’s interest in theater and your interest in self-revelation and unburdening personal history?

I do think that my autobiographical comics are related to the acting and performing my parents were interested in. I feel like they were… I don’t think I would be writing about my family if I hadn’t been raised in a world where they prized art over life. I’m revealing lots of internal stuff about my family, and I might not do that if I felt more loyalty towards my family. I wasn’t raised like that.

But was the decision to give your work over to the theater inspired by a family interest in the medium?

I don’t think so. They were performing their lives apart from any acting my mother, in particular, did. That’s what inspired it—more than any love of theater.

TIME Theater

Finding Neverland and The Visit: Two Broadway Musicals to Savor

"Finding Neverland" Broadway Opening Night - Arrivals & Curtain Call
Getty Images (2) Left: The cast of Finding Neverland takes a bow on April 15, 2015 in New York City. Right: The cast of The Visit takes a bow on April 23, 2015 in New York City.

After long, troubled voyages to Broadway, both shows have provided a happy ending to the season

The troubled history of Finding Neverland, the new Broadway musical about author J.M. Barrie and the writing of Peter Pan, is one of those juicy backstage stories that theater insiders love. Producer Harvey Weinstein, the independent film mogul overseeing his first Broadway musical, scrapped one earlier version of the show, replaced the entire creative team, complained about the critics and fought with his own publicists — all before the show finally opened on Broadway two weeks ago.

But is it possible to ignore the backstage soap opera and actually look at what’s onstage? Audiences apparently can, since they’ve been flocking to the show in near sellout numbers. As for the critics? Not so much. The mostly negative reviews seem to be more a judgment on Weinstein and his shenanigans than on the musical itself. Because what I saw onstage, at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontane Theater, is a surprisingly enjoyable show.

To appreciate the sheer craft involved in pulling it off, you need to compare it to the rather treacly, Oscar-nominated 2004 movie on which it’s based. Rare for one of these screen-to-stage transfers, the musical improves on the movie in almost every way. Matthew Morrison, recently of the TV show Glee, is more convincing and relatable as Barrie than the moony and mercurial Johnny Depp in the film. Kelsey Grammer has a firmer fix on the character of Barrie’s gruff producer (and better comic timing) than Dustin Hoffman. The stage version is less saccharine and less dragged out; we’re spared all those endless shots of Kate Winslet gazing beatifically at Barrie and her boys, whose game-playing supposedly inspired him to create the famous children’s story. It strikes me as the very model of a modern family musical: briskly told, brightly staged, with a score (by British rocker Gary Barlow) as tuneful as one could expect from a show set in turn-of-the-century London that’s not by Gilbert and Sullivan.

Much credit goes to James Graham’s script, which is witty, efficient and mostly dry-eyed. Director Diane Paulus’s staging is slick and inventive, but never over the top. As Barrie watches the boys bounce on a bed, they are borne aloft by stagehands in dreamy slow-motion (no tacky wires here). A stuffy dinner party, attended by Barrie and the boys, suddenly breaks into a spirited fantasy interlude, a production number that captures the kid-at-heart awakening of Barrie better than anything in the movie. Mia Michaels’ choreography avoids traditional Broadway chorus lines, acrobatics and ballet pretensions for clever, tightly synchronized, character-driven group movement, and it is winning.

Yes, the story still inspires some qualms (a brief bit of dialogue raises intimations of pedophilia), and there’s some heavy-handed comedy business involving the huffy stage actors who are forced to play kids and dogs in Barrie’s new children’s play. (Plus one offhand, out-of-character reference to Grammer’s old TV series Cheers that has been treated by the guardians of Broadway purity as if it were grounds for federal prosecution.) But these are trivial flaws in a show that displays a lot of poise and professionalism, and deserves a long run.

The Visit, a musical version of Friedrich Durrenmatt’s great 1956 play, is another show that arrives on Broadway with plenty of backstage baggage. One of the last collaborations between songwriters John Kander and the late Fred Ebb (Cabaret, Chicago), the show was originally staged in Chicago in 2001, has been tinkered with and restaged several times, and has survived to make its Broadway debut thanks largely to one salutary constant: its star, 82-year-old Broadway legend Chita Rivera.

She plays Clare Zachanassian, the world’s richest woman, who returns to her impoverished home town with a strange retinue: a tuxedoed butler, two blind eunuchs and an empty coffin. She has come back to see the lover (Roger Rees) who once jilted her, and to calmly offer the town a way out of its economic misery: she will pay $10 billion if they will murder him.

Clearly, we are not in Oklahoma! territory here. Durrenmatt’s play is a product of the postwar experimental European theater tradition — an allegorical, anti-realistic style, a touch of absurdism and a bleak, unsentimental view of the human predicament. The play is a parable of greed and revenge and conformity — and perhaps Nazi Germany too. (Durrenmatt was a Swiss who wrote in German.) Though embellished by Kander and Ebb’s sweet, deceptively simple, oom-pah-pah songs, it is the darkest musical I think I have ever seen on Broadway.

But it is a stunner. Terrence McNally’s clear, spare adaptation is almost as good as his musical masterpiece, Ragtime. Director John Doyle has pared down the version I saw in 2008 at Virginia’s Signature Theater, perhaps skimping a bit too much on the town’s evolving reaction to Clare’s shocking proposal. But he gives the show an intensity you rarely see in a Broadway musical. Set in a decrepit railway station, relentlessly gray except for the dabs of yellow as the townspeople begin to eye their possible riches, the show hits a peak in the unsettling anti-production number “Yellow Shoes,” as bright and chilling as a blast of winter ice.

Rivera is commanding as Clare, looking regal (“That’s not beauty,” says one of the townspeople; “that’s money”), her throaty voice still strong, betraying no fragility despite using a cane (the character has an artificial leg, along with other replacement body parts). She deserves the raves she is winning, but that shouldn’t obscure the achievement of this brave, uncompromising slice of Broadway misanthropy.

TIME Theater

Jake Gyllenhaal, Taran Killam to Star in Little Shop of Horrors Off Broadway

Bruce Glikas—FilmMagic; Barry King—Getty Images Jake Gyllenhaal (left), Taran Killam

Killam will play the sadistic dentist, a role performed by Steve Martin in the 1986 film

Jake Gyllenhaal will make his stage musical debut as geeky florist Seymour Krelborn in the upcoming Encores! Off-Center production of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s Little Shop of Horrors. Originally slated as a one-night-only performance, the Dick Scanlan-directed concert production will now play three performances at New York’s City Center on July 1 and 2, 2015.

Saturday Night Live’s Taran Killam will join Gyllenhaal as Orin Scrivello, better known as the sadistic dentist played by Steve Martin in the 1986 film. Ellen Greene, who originated the role of ditzy bombshell Audrey in the original stage production and film, will reprise her role, and Chuck Cooper will lend his voice to Audrey II, the carnivorous plant who tempts Seymour with promises of fame, glory, and the heart of his unrequited love, Audrey.

The cast also includes Tracy Nicole Chapman as Chiffon, Marva Hicks as Crystal, and Ramona Keller as Ronnette. Patricia Wilcox will choreograph.

Gyllenhaal last appeared on Broadway this season in the two-hander Constellations, opposite Ruth Wilson. Off Broadway, he made his debut just two and a half years ago in Roundabout’s If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet. Little Shop marks Killam’s professional stage debut, although his theater roots stretch far.

Encores!’ summer season will also include The Wild Party with Sutton Foster and A New Brain with Jonathan Groff.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME Theater

Mamma Mia! Will Close on Broadway in September After a 14-Year Run

Cast members, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Sara Poyzer and Sue Devaney of the broadway musical 'Mamma Mia!' on November 13, 2014 in Singapore
Suhaimi Abdullah—Getty Images Cast members, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Sara Poyzer and Sue Devaney of the broadway musical 'Mamma Mia!' on November 13, 2014 in Singapore

It will have notched up a total of 5,765 performances

On Sept. 5, Mamma Mia!, one of Broadway’s longest-running shows, will wrap up production after 14 years, producer Judy Craymer announced on Thursday.

Deadline Hollywood reports that the $2 billion plus-grossing musical, named after the classic song by Swedish pop legends ABBA and featuring the compositions of ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, will have notched up a total of 5,765 performances — not to mention the 2008 Meryl Streep film of the same name.

“It’s an honour to be recognized as one of the most popular shows in Broadway history,” said Craymer, “and we’re looking forward to celebrating our last summer at the Broadhurst Theatre.”

The show has been at the Broadhurst Theatre since 2013.

[Deadline Hollywood]

TIME Theater

David Bowie Wrote a Play That Will Debut in New York

Musician David Bowie attends the 2010 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York Cit yon June 7, 2010 .
Jamie McCarthy—WireImage Musician David Bowie attends the 2010 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York Cit yon June 7, 2010 .

It's based on a sci-fi movie he was in

David Bowie has co-written a play will have an off-Broadway debut in the 2015-2016 season.

Lazarus, the show by Bowie and Enda Walsh, the playwright behind Once, was inspired by The Man Who Fell to Earth, a 1963 novel that then became a British sci-fi movie cult hit starring Bowie in 1976. Bowie’s character in the movie, an alien named Thomas Jerome Newton, will be the protagonist in the play, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The show will also contain new original songs by Bowie.

The show will be directed by Ivo van Hove and is set to be staged at the end of the year. Bowie himself is not due to appear onstage.

[The Hollywood Reporter]

 

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