This Thanksgiving Weekend the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor will present the World Premiere of “Simeon’s Gift,” a new hour long musical adapted from the 2003 best-selling picture book of the same name by Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton. The two women, who together have written 17 children’s books, have provided the script for the musical as well, but this will be the first time one of their books has ever been developed for the stage. A dynamic team of collaborators, both behind the scenes and on the stage, have come together to mark the occasion.
The music is by Ian Fraser, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his score for the film “Scrooge” and the lyrics are by acclaimed songwriter John Bucchino, currently working on the new Harvey Fierstein musical “A Catered Affair” directed by John Doyle, which will open on Broadway in Spring 2008. Marcia Milgrom Dodge, who has become a part of Bay Street’s extended family, will direct and choreograph. Her credits here include “Tommy,” “Hair,” “Once on This Island,” and “The West End Horror,” which she also co-authored. She is “Thrilled to be directing ‘Simeon’s Gift’ for Bay Street and collaborating with this esteemed creative team.”
Julie Andrew, who has been writing children’s books for 35 years, gushed at the apparent perfection of the project “It is thrilling for Emma and I to see Simeon’s Gift come to life on stage with such beautiful music and lyrics,” and added “I cannot think of a better place for it to receive its World Premiere than Bay Street Theatre.” The mother/daughter writing team looked pleased when they attended a rehearsal last week. They watched the cast perform with Fraser on piano while Dodge kept an eye on various details.
Their picture book, illustrated by award-winning artist Gennady Spirin and published by Harper Collins, was called “blindingly gorgeous” by Kisrkus Reviews. The book debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List in 2003 and was voted a “Child Magazine Best Book of the Year.” The story, an original fable, is a magical coming of age tale about creativity, music and the power of giving. A minstrel goes on a journey of self discovery so he might compose beautiful music for a noble woman he loves and thus become deserving of her love in return. The story from the book has been fleshed out and now the original is the last third of the show.
Lyricist John Bucchino seems to be the man of the moment with his upcoming musical being one of the most eagerly awaited Broadway happenings for Spring. His “finely made piano ballads” are tunes from a “gifted phrasemaker” that deal with yearning, heartbreak, and hard won fulfillment. The often philosophical, yet romantic nature of his songs, which have been recorded by many of the world’s leading artists, winning him many honors, appear to make him tailor made for the project. His best known songs “Grateful” and “This Moment” are personal epiphanies rejoicing in an awakening to the beauty of the here and now. His numerous CD’s include “It’s Only Life,” and in addition to the songs for the Broadway bound “Catered Affair, he has written the songs for the DreamWorks animated film “Joseph King of Dreams.”
British born composer Ian Fraser came to New York in 1962 with Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, for which he was Musical Director and Arranger of both the original London and Broadway productions. His extensive award winning career spans Theater, Film and Television and in 1972 Mr. Fraser began an ongoing association with Ms. Andrews, when he became the Vocal Arranger for her ABC-TV variety series. He became her musical director the following year and would even conduct for her when she returned to Broadway after a 30 year absence to star in the James Blake musical “Victor/Victoria.” The California based Mr. Fraser has described his collaboration with John Bucchino and everyone on the musical as “An absolute delight.”
Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton are enthusiastic about their collaborative process as writers because it gives them an opportunity to focus on their creative interactions in a playful atmosphere. Emma Walton has said “We are both passionate about reading, literacy and the arts, but most of all, about children…” “Simeon’s Gift,” a musical for the entire family, has provided them with a way to channel all of those things into the Theatre.
This is the first production of Bay Street’s Family Theatre Initiative. The vision is to develop shows from children’s stories for family audiences, shows that might eventually tour to schools around the country. “Simeon’s Gift,” is a giant step forward.
By Gordin & Christiano
Originally Published on Hamptons.com
Simeon’s Gift will be performed at the Bay Street Theatre November 23rd at 8pm, November 24th at 2pm & 8pm, and November 25th at 2pm. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children (up to age 12). The show is recommended for children 7 and above. To reserve your tickets for Simeon’s Gift please call 631-725-9500 or buy them online at baystreet.org