TOP: Director Susan V. Booth (left) and choreographer JoAnn M. Hunter (Broadway’s “School of Rock,” “Disaster,” “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” “Broadway Bound” ) study the scenic designs of three-time Tony Award nominee Anna Louizos. Photo: Kathleen Covington.
The creators and director of the musical Ever After
put their faith in a modern Cinderella-like heroine
who can take care of herself.
“Ever After: A Musical for the Ages” runs Jan. 15-Feb. 17 on the Alliance Theatre’s Coca-Cola Stage. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.733.5000.
FOUR WHITE MICE will never be four white horses, at least not in Ever After, the musical that christens the Alliance Theatre’s new Coca-Cola Stage. You’d best not expect a pumpkin turned carriage, either. And there’s no fairy godmother chirping “bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.”
In this telling, the heroine figures out how to save herself and others, although Leonardo da Vinci does show up to lend a hand.
Ever After, from the New York songwriting team of Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, helps celebrate the Alliance’s 50th anniversary season and unveil its $22 million mainstage renovation. It’s adapted from the 1998 movie of the same name with Drew Barrymore as Danielle de Barbarac (the Cinderella character) and Anjelica Huston as her long-suffering and rather realistic stepmother.
“This is not some idealized version of ingenue womanhood,” says Alliance artistic director Susan V. Booth, who directs. “This is a problem-solving heroine with wit, heart, intelligence and a capacity to see beyond the limits of ‘it’s always been this way.’ ”
Says Goldrich: Danielle “isn’t waiting around for someone to rescue her.”
From New York to Atlanta
The Alliance cast features a number of familiar Broadway faces, including Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid) as Danielle, Rachel York (Victor, Victoria) as Rodmilla, David Garrison (A Day in Hollywood, a Night in the Ukraine) as da Vinci, Jeff McCarthy (Urinetown, Side Show) as Pierre Malette and Terry Burrell (Dreamgirls) as Queen Marie of France. Atlanta actor Chris Kayser plays France’s King Francis.
Booth says she’s drawn to stories of transformation and was particularly smitten by da Vinci’s presence. The artist-inventor who died in France in 1519 fits nicely into a 16th-century story. Booth also appreciates the musical’s “fierce intelligence to both the characters and the context.”
We return to fairy tales, she says, “because they’re archetypal tropes that help us understand the good, bad and the ugly of being alive. It’s why they exist. And particularly in times of circumstantial chaos, we need the solidity of those stories. The more troubling our real lives become, the more we hunger for ‘once upon a time.’ ”
Once upon a time
Ever After began its trip to the Alliance about 15 years ago, when Heisler and Goldrich were asked to write the book and score. The show had its world premiere at New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse in 2015, and the two have been tweaking it intermittently ever since.
Ever After removes a lot of the “becauses” from the old story, including the famous TV and stage versions told by the great Rodgers and Hammerstein.
It’s more about “why” than “because,” Heisler says. “I’m a huge fan of [the song] ‘Ten Minutes Ago’ and the magic of what can happen across a crowded room. But I’m also a big fan of two very human people stumbling toward love.”
“The neat thing about this story is that Danielle challenges the prince,” Goldrich says. “The fact that she’s not very interested makes him interested. That’s so much more relatable than the ‘across a crowded room’ thing.”
Heisler and Goldrich are probably best known for creating children’s musicals (Junie B. Jones, Dear Edwina), but their contemporary songs (“Taylor the Latte Boy”) are popular with performers like Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming. They met 25 years ago on a wickedly hot day at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, the foremost training ground for aspiring Broadway songwriters.
“It was like finding a kindred spirit across the room,” Heisler says. “We sat next to each other and, from the beginning, it’s been this inexplicable connection. It’s always felt like we’re in mid-conversation.”
They stick to one hard and fast rule when working: Goldberg gets the final say in any debate over music or rhythm; Heisler makes the call on dialogue and lyrics.
A woman’s place
It matters deeply that Ever After springs from two strong women, Booth says, calling the team’s songs “gorgeous and deceptively complex” and adding, “They hit your ear and stay there — but they also hit both head and heart and stay there.”
Building a show is like building a family, Heisler and Goldrich say. It’s a long and bumpy road — especially for a musical hoping to reach Broadway.
“Sometimes you write shows and sometimes shows write you,” Heisler says. “You never know for sure what song will spin off or what ideas will take shape. You can’t expect to rush it.”
“The real joy, for us, is in writing the songs,” Goldrich says. “And some shows just take longer to bake.”