by Gail M. Burns
This weekend the Mac-Haydn is doing something it has almost never done in 50 years of presenting professional musical theatre – it is offering a world premiere of a new work. Wendy’s Shadow, an original work with book, music, and lyrics by Mac-Haydn Music Director David Maglione, with additional material by Tomas Ruiz, is making its debut as a part of the Children’s Theatre line-up on August 3 and running Friday and Saturday mornings at 10:30 am until August 18.
“Having the Mac-Haydn develop and present new musicals is something I really want to work on in the coming years,” said Artistic Director John Saunders. “We presented an evening of work In Development late last season which featured songs from Wendy’s Shadow and another musical David is working on. Our associate Producer Monica Wemitt and I went down to New Jersey to see a full workshop production this past spring, and I immediately asked David if he could create a one-hour version for our season.”
Saunders is directing the show, which also marks the Mac-Haydn’s first production of any version of the Peter Pan story. Sebastiani Romagnolo is choreographing, and Mainstage favorites Kelly Gabrielle Murphy as Wendy, Jayke Workman as Peter, and Gabe Belyeu as Captain Hook head a cast of fifteen. Jeff Little has orchestrated Maglione’s score, which will be performed by a four-piece band under Maglione’s baton.
Maglione has been working on the show on and off for about five years now. “It started when I was working on a production of the 1954 musical version of Peter Pan, the version we all associate with Mary Martin. I wrote a new song to replace “Never Never Land.” I had never written a musical before and didn’t really consider myself a composer, but when I played this song and talked with friends and colleagues about it, they were all immediately on board. There is a real timelessness to the story.”
Over the years Maglione and Ruiz have collaborated with a number of artists, notably Jason Cannon of Florida Studio Theatre, who worked dramaturgically on the book early in the process. “So many people have touched this project and impacted my life,” Maglione mused. “I’m really at the end of this five-year process.”
In his second season as Music Director at the Mac-Haydn, Maglione is the full time Music Director at the School of Visual and Performing Arts at Montclair High School, as well as a pianist at Montclair State University in New Jersey. He is currently writing music and lyrics for a new musical entitled The Only Way Out…, which will receive a staged reading at Open Bar Theatricals in the fall of 2018.
In Wendy’s Shadow we meet Wendy as an orphan, adopted by the Darling family. She is unsure of her place in the family and in the world, but the Darling brothers, John (Troy Lingelback) and Michael, (Charlie Munday) have already been to Neverland and they are eager to introduce Wendy to Peter and the Lost Boys. Even strong-willed Tinker Bell (Jonah Hale) comes around and embraces Wendy as part of the gang, and gets to redeem herself for her selfish feelings as the show progresses.
“The show really focuses on Wendy’s experience with these friends she meets. This girl who feels alone and invisible is nurtured into a young adult through living this story which lets her find her shadow and find out who she is,” Maglione explained. “The title came before we started to write the show, but as the shape of the story has changed the title rings true more and more. Wendy’s Shadow has been our anchor.
“Sometimes Peter Pan feels like a boys’ story and this show has more girl power,” Saunders noted. I like that it evens the playing field in Neverland and in the Nursery.” To that end some traditionally male characters will be played by women, as women, notably Smee, the lovable nonconformist pirate, who will be played by Maggie Eley.
Saunders and Maglione promise that Captain Hook and his pirate band will not be too scary for little ones, but that there will be plenty to entertain children and adults alike. “Fifity percent of the audience for our children’s shows are adults,” Saunders acknowledged. “One of the reasons brands like Disney and Pixar and The Muppets are so successful is that they offer entertainment on a variety of different levels for folks at different stages in life.”
Wendy’s Shadow, with book, music, and lyrics by Mac-Haydn Music Director David Maglione, with additional material by Tomas Ruiz, directed by John Saunders and choreographed by Sebastiani Romagnolo, will be performed August 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th, 17th & 18th at 10:30 am at the Mac-Haydn Theatre, 1925 NY Route 203 in Chatham, NY. Tickets are just $12. Call 518-392-9292 or click here