“The first thing I had to do,” says Marcy Heisler, “was to find a way to get rid of all the horses.”

Yes, that is the problem for a bookwriter-lyricist when adapting a film in which equine beings literally run rampant. The era that Ever After depicts – 16th century France — didn’t even have as much as a Tin Lizzie on the road. It was either “Get a horse!” or walk.

Composer Zina Goldrich and Lyricist Marcy Heisler

In fact, the most shocking scene of the 1998 film takes place after Auguste de Barbarac prepares for a long horseback journey and says goodbye to his beloved eight-year-old daughter Danielle, his new wife Baroness Rodmilla and her two daughters from her previous marriage. After Auguste mounts his steed, he only travels a matter of yards before he falls off as the result of a heart attack.

As he’s dying, his last word is “Danielle.” Needless to say, Rodmilla was hoping for “Rodmilla.” It’s one reason why this stepmother comes to resent her new stepdaughter and how that resentment hardens into downright cruelty. Jealousy, pure and simple, is the reason that Rodmilla and her two daughters treat Danielle like – well, Cinderella.

“There are never enough Cinderella stories,” says Heisler’s writing partner, composer Zina Goldrich. “People don’t turn off if you do it in a new way.”

The film of Ever After did that, and now Goldrich and Heisler – the team behind DEAR EDWINA and JUNIE B. JONES, too — have endeavored to find new twists in their musical version. It’s now at The Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey with Margo (Rocky) Seibert as Danielle and two-time Tony-winner Christine Ebersole as Rodmilla.

Fred Inkley, James Snyder, Margo Seibert and Christine Ebersole in Ever After at The Paper Mill Playhouse (Photo © Jerry Dalia)

Heisler not only had to find a horseless way around Auguste’s heart attack, but also another when Danielle sees a man stealing one of the family’s horses. She throws an apple at him, squarely hits her target – and then is aghast to find that he’s the Prince.

“What I liked when I saw the movie,” says Heisler, “is that soon after Danielle meets Prince Henry she has a political conversation with him about what’s wrong with the kingdom. What’s also great is that so many people in the story help so many other characters.”

That even includes Leonardo da Vinci, played here by Tony-nominee Tony Sheldon. “Some people have observed that Ever After is a fairy tale with no magic in it,” says Heisler. “We maintain that Leonardo’s brilliance is actually the most special kind of magic you can find in the world.”

“Henry is surrounded by ‘yes’ people,” says Goldrich. “Leonardo isn’t one of them. It’s one reason I was intrigued by the film. Another is that since childhood, I’ve loved any story about women who were living in and coping with a man’s world.”

The Company of Ever After at Paper Mill Playhouse (Photo © Jerry Dalia)

And yet, the book that made the greatest impression on Goldrich might well be one she hadn’t read: “My mother told me that after she read (Betty Friedan’s ‘60s feminist classic) The Feminine Mystique, she was in tears. When my father came home, she actually asked him ‘Did you know that I have rights?’”

Heisler says that her own road to self-respect started when she was a little girl growing up in Deerfield, Illinois and performed with Lyric Opera of Chicago. “Although I was Third Urchin from the Left,” she says after giving a nostalgic smile, “I loved that I was treated as an equal colleague. Where else can a kid get so respected?”

With a start like that, no wonder that Heisler continued performing throughout her schooling. “I played Eliza Doolittle,” she says, “and got to talk to Julie Andrews about it.” That happened in 2012, after she and Goldrich had musicalized a children’s book that Andrews had co-written: The Great American Mousical, about mice who love to put on musicals. (Well, who can blame them?) It met with a nice success at The Goodspeed Opera House’s Norma Terris Theatre.

Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler (© Joey Stocks)

Goldrich was performing in musical theater at a young age, too. “You didn’t see my Golde in FIDDLER in camp,” she mock-chides Heisler, who says, “I sure would have liked to. Zina and I believe that if we knew each other in elementary school, we would have become fast friends.”

The two met a couple of decades ago when Heisler joined the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop. (“Yes,” says Goldrich, “Our collaboration is now old enough to drink.”) Rookie Heisler just happened to sit next to Goldrich, who’d already been in the program. However, like those people who become friends and only later up the ante to morph into lovers, Goldrich and Heisler were friends for a year before they took the plunge to collaborate. “Until then,” says Heisler, “Zina was writing her own lyrics.”

But in a way, Heisler composes her own melodies. “I write the lyrics first and when I do, I always have a melody in my head,” she says. “After I give them to Zina, I’m always surprised how the melody she comes up with is very much like the one I imagined. Only better,” she adds.

Goldrich says “May I brag about Marcy for a minute? Notice that in most Cinderella musicals, you have songs of longing for a man: ‘Someday My Prince Will Come.’ Marcy instead turned that idea around completely and put Danielle in denial. ‘Who Needs Love?’ she sings.” (As one smart lyric goes: “A knight in shining armor is just one more thing to dust.”)

Margo Seibert and Christine Ebersole (Photo © Jerry Dalia)

Lest all this sound too sweet, both women tell of times when they disagree on where a song should be placed. Says Heisler, “What we’ve learned, however, is that if we argue about it long enough, we realize that there shouldn’t be a song there. Only when we both agree on where a song should be does it turn out to be right.”

The music of Ever After marches to a different drummer. “I didn’t want it to sound like your high school madrigal society,” says Goldrich. “I felt it should be big, lusty, melodic, jazzy and quirky. There’s a modern feel to the story so I wanted a musical idiom to reflect that. It should hit you emotionally and not just be a history lesson.”

Heisler agrees. “The music must express that Danielle is a fiercely independent Cinderella. She’s funny and smart in the way I always I aspire to be.” Heisler gives a shy grim before she admits “I wasn’t afraid to put my own long and winding road for love into the story.”

Whether or not Heisler’s prince will ever come someday, at least the prints of Ever After posters and programs day have come. Now – will genuine yellow-topped Playbills ever become available? That of course would only happen if the show moved to Broadway. The fact that another Cinderella – by Rodgers and Hammerstein, no less — played there for close to two solid years and only closed five months ago hasn’t undaunted them.

Says Heisler, “My sister, who co-created and writes the TV show The Middle, has the right way of looking at it: ‘Eyes on your own paper,’ she tells me. ‘You have a distinct voice and no one can write a story the way you can. Keep going.’”

Goldrich says, “I believe what Winston Churchill said: ‘Never give up. Never give up. Never give up,’” she drones, sounding not unlike the legendary prime minister.

So perhaps Goldrich and Heisler will experience their own Cinderella ending where they and Ever After live happily ever after. Stay tuned.

You may e-mail Peter at pfilichia@aol.com. Check out his weekly column each Monday at www.broadwayselect.com, Tuesday at www.masterworksbroadway.com and Friday at www.kritzerland.com. His book The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-To-Be Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available at www.amazon.com.

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    10th ANNIVERSARY STUDENT SHARE CELEBRATION OF

    THE SHUBERT FOUNDATION and MUSIC THEATRE INTERNATIONAL’S

    “BROADWAY JUNIOR”

    Hosted by Mary Page Nance

    From Broadway’s “Finding Neverland”

     TUESDAY, June 2nd ONSTAGE at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts

     at Brooklyn College

    Hundreds of NYC Public School Students Performing Musical Numbers

    Hosted by Mary Page Nance of Broadway’s Finding Neverland
    (Photo ©Ted Ely Photography)

    NEW YORK The 10th Anniversary celebration of The Shubert Foundation/Music Theatre International arts education Broadway Junior Program will take place Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 at 10:30 a.m. at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College (2900 Campus Rd.)

    The event will be hosted by Mary Page Nance from Broadway’s “Finding Neverland.”

    Students from Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Manhattan will perform song and dance numbers from their school versions of Broadway musicals. The shows include Guys and Dolls JR, Once on this Island JR, Fame JR, Annie JR, and Schoolhouse Rock Live JR.

    The Shubert /MTI Broadway Junior Program is a groundbreaking musical theatre mentorship program that builds self-sustaining theatre programs in public schools that have limited arts programming.  The program is sponsored by The Shubert Foundation, Music Theatre International (MTI) and the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE).

    At the event on Tuesday, June 2nd, the New York City Department of Education Office of Arts and Special Projects Executive Director, Paul King will offer welcoming remarks and will introduce this Celebration’s Broadway Junior host, Mary Page Nance, who is currently starring in the hit Broadway musical, “Finding Neverland”

    In attendance at the Broadway Junior event will be prominent NYC arts educators, and leading members of New York’s professional theater community.

    “The arts teaches students the importance of revising, editing, rehearsing and joy in the pursuit of mastery – a lesson critical in the classroom and beyond,” said School’s Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Expanding access to theater, and more generally arts education, helps inspire students, builds confidence and deepens their critical thinking skills. By taking advantage of the City’s rich cultural resources, and partnering with great organizations like the Shubert Foundation, we will be able to continue to offer teachers hands on training and arts experiences and give our students access to a world class arts education.”

    Students performing in 2014.

    Michael I. Sovern, President of The Shubert Foundation, stated, “Every year, the Broadway Junior celebration is a joyful burst of youthful talent and energy that lights up Broadway. The long-running success of this program clearly demonstrates the value of The Shubert Foundation’s ongoing support for arts education programs in our New York City public schools.”

    “I am so gratified, along with Team MTI to witness how this program has matured and expanded over 10 years. The unanticipated long term impact on the students, schools and local communities has gone beyond what any of us could have envisaged as the participating students are learning life skills, indispensable to their futures. These include the ability to collaborate, follow direction and instruction, practice self-discipline and work ethics, and use their imaginations while honing their verbal communication skills. These are the great gifts to give a new generation, critical for success, and often atypical of traditional curricula,” said Freddie Gershon, Chairman and CEO of MTI who conceived the Junior Musicals Program.

    “The results achieved from Broadway Junior have been truly extraordinary.  Many participating schools, with previously little or no access to the arts, have come to consider themselves “arts” schools.  Even beyond the direct effect on students, principals have commented on the larger learning culture that Shubert/MTI Broadway Junior promotes and helps develop. Similarly, teachers, who didn’t realize they had talent as a theater director, musical director, choreographer or designer, have become arts leaders in their schools and communities,” according to Peter Avery, the event’s Producer and the Director of Theater, NYC Department of Education.

    Students with the 2014 Host, Denzel Washington

    The Shubert Foundation/MTI Broadway Junior Program engages students in all aspects and areas of the arts, utilizing master teachers and expert production advisers from the educational theatre organizations, iTheatrics and ArtsConnection.

    In the first year of the Broadway Junior program, teachers and students are guided step-by-step through the process of producing a first-ever musical in their schools. In the second year, teachers and students continue to receive support and encouragement on their second musical, but take ownership over their productions. In the third year and beyond, schools present a musical independently, and serve as inspiration for other schools involved in earlier cycles of the program.

    This 2015 Broadway Junior 10th Anniversary Celebration will present performances from middle school groups participating in the first year of the program:

    ONCE ON THIS ISLAND JR

    In Tech Academy MS/HS 368

    ANNIE JR

    PS/IS 30 Mary White Ovington

    SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE JR

    Mott Hall IV

    ANNIE JR

    New Design Middle School

    ONCE ON THIS ISLAND JR

    PS/IS 119 The Glendale

    ANNIE JR

    Seth Low I.S. 96

    GUYS AND DOLLS JR

    Hunter’s Point Community Middle School

    GUYS AND DOLLS JR

    Shell Bank Intermediate School 14

    ONCE ON THIS ISLAND JR

    Middle School for Marketing and Legal Studies

    FAME JR

    Pablo Casals MS 181

    ONCE ON THIS ISLAND JR

    PS 5 Port Morris School

    SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE JR

    Corona Arts & Sciences Academy

    ANNIE JR

    Angelo Patri School

    FAME JR

    Academy of Medical Technology

    Here is a link to all current participating NYC public schools and their boroughs: 2015 Shubert/MTI Broadway Junior Schools

     

    The Shubert Foundation

    Since 2005, The Shubert Foundation has provided more than $3.2 million to the New York City Department of Education for Arts Education/Theatre programs. This year marks the Foundation’s tenth year providing funds for The Shubert Foundation/MTI Broadway Junior program which was founded during the 2005-2006 school year.  To date, 60 schools and more than 10,000 students have participated in the program. Currently 45 schools are involved in the program. In 2015, The Shubert Foundation introduced a new program in partnership with the NYC Department of Education, The Shubert Foundation High School Theatre Festival for NYC Public Schools. The annual event features highlights from NYC public high school productions of plays and musicals, performed on a Broadway stage. The Shubert Foundation, Inc. is the nation’s largest private foundation dedicated to unrestricted funding of not-for-profit theatres, with a secondary focus on dance. In 2014, The Shubert Foundation annual grants program awarded a record total of $22.5 million to 470 not-for-profit performing arts organizations across the United States. The 2014 grants marked the 32nd year in a row that the Foundation’s giving has increased.

    www.shubertfoundation.org.

     

    Music Theatre International and Broadway Junior

    Music Theatre International (MTI) is one of the world’s leading theatrical licensing agencies, granting schools as well as amateur and professional theatres from around the world the rights to perform the largest selection of great musicals from Broadway and beyond.  MTI works directly with the composers, lyricists and book writers of these shows to provide official scripts, musical and dynamic theatrical resources to over 70,000 theatrical organizations in the US and in over 60 countries worldwide.  Broadway Junior features a collection of developmentally appropriate 30 and 60-minute musicals for elementary and middle school-aged performers. Since 1996, over 100,000 Broadway Junior productions have taken place around the world involving over 500,000 educators and over 5 million student performers.

    For more information, visit www.mtishows.com.

     

    New York City Department of Education

    The New York City Department of Education is the largest system of public schools in the United States, serving about 1.1 million students in more than 1,750 schools. The Department of Education supports universal access to arts education through the ArtsCount initiative, which tracks and reports student participation in arts education and holds schools accountable for meeting New York State Instructional Requirements for the Arts. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/schools.

     

    Mary Page Nance is a native of Richmond, Virginia where she trained at SPARC, Richmond Dance Center, The Richmond Ballet, and Appomattox Governor’s School for the Arts and Technology. She continued her studies in New York at the Conservatory of Dance at SUNY Purchase. She graduated with a BFA in Modern Dance Performance, and was granted the President’s Award for Achievement in Dance. After Purchase, Mary Page performed regionally at the Virginia Repertory Theatre in Guys and Dolls and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Both shows were directed by Broadway veteran, Patti D’Beck. In New York City she has performed with many different companies, including: Riedel Dance Theatre, LaneCoArts, NØA Dance, Camp Collective, and The LMproject. Mary Page is now active in the theatre community and has been busy with: A Chorus Line at The Seacoast Repertory Theatre (Sheila Bryant), Joseph…, Fiddler on the Roof, and Otello at Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre where she worked side by side with Sheldon Harnick on a workshop/stage reading of the Broadway Production, Rex (‘Queen Claude’ and ‘Katherine Parr’), and Dragons at The York Theatre in their Musicals in Mufti Series: Celebrating Sheldon Harnick. She is currently performing the new musical, Finding Neverland, on Broadway.

     

    PRESS CONTACTS

    MUSIC THEATRE INTERNATIONAL:

    David Beckwith

    The Beckwith Company

    323-845-9836

    david@thebeckwithcompany.com

     

    NYC DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION:

    Harry Hartfield

    212-374-6623

    WHartfield@schools.nyc.gov

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        You’ll typically find Sheldon Harnick behind the scenes. But the lyricist of Fiddler on the Roof will step center stage later this month to discuss the creation and legacy of one of the stage’s most enduring musicals in the golden anniversary year of its original Broadway production.

        Harnick, 91, who is also celebrating the 50th year of his marriage, penned the program’s script and will host five performances at the 92nd Street Y starting May 30.

        Like tens of thousands of others, this journalist identified with the show’s family and thought it was because of her Russian Jewish roots. But Fiddler won nine Tony Awards and played in two dozen countries within a decade of its Broadway debut. Its characters have endeared themselves to audiences the world over, including in Japan, where the musical has played to devoted audiences since 1967.

        Read the entire article here.

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          Filichia Features: Creating the Magic with Michael Presser

          May 22, 2015

          When Michael Presser was a wee student in junior high (which is what we used to call middle school), he opened up the newspaper and saw a full-page ad for the then-new musical HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING. Well, with a logo like that, who wouldn’t be intrigued? More enticing still was [...]

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            Filichia Features: The Gospel Truth on GODSPELL

            May 15, 2015

            On March 8, 1971, Stephen Schwartz – making all of $22.50 a week thanks to one of his songs — agreed to provide music and some additional lyrics for an upcoming off-Broadway show. Never mind that he had to have everything ready in thirty-four days. The composer-lyricist who’d just passed his twenty-third birthday was hungry [...]

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              DARREN CRISS HOSTS AS HUNDREDS OF NYC PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS PERFORM ON BROADWAY

              May 14, 2015

               10th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION OF THE SHUBERT FOUNDATION and MUSIC THEATRE INTERNATIONAL’S “BROADWAY JUNIOR” Hosted by DARREN CRISS Star of Broadway’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” TUESDAY, MAY 19th ONSTAGE AT THE IMPERIAL THEATRE Hundreds of NYC Public School Students Performing Musical Numbers The 10th Anniversary celebration of The Shubert Foundation/Music Theatre International arts education program, [...]

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                The Musical Ragtime Is Right for the Times

                May 12, 2015

                Music Theatre International’s CEO Freddie Gershon was recently featured on HuffPost Live discussing a powerful production of Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and Terrence McNally’s award-winning Ragtime in Syracuse, NY. The production combined performances with community awareness and education initiatives. You can read the full article below or click here to read and comment on HuffPost [...]

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                  Filichia Features: FAME Continues to Live Forever

                  May 8, 2015

                  It may very well be the most valuable and enriching musical a school can possibly do. And although it’s been around for decades, you may not be familiar with it. What’s made FAME a too-well-kept secret is that it’s never played on Broadway. It did open off-Broadway in 2003, but at an out-of-the-way theater that’s [...]

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                    Music Theatre International To Match Donations To Jumpstart Theatre Program

                    May 5, 2015

                    May 5, 2015— The Educational Theatre Association (EdTA), Music Theatre International (MTI), and iTheatrics have selected three pilot schools for JumpStart Theatre, a new pilot program designed to build sustainable theatre programs in middle schools that do not offer curricular or after-school theatre education opportunities. This year, three Cincinnati-area schools have been selected for the [...]

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