An interview with Steven Cheslik-deMeyer, Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt about what is new with their 2010 Festival Show, Lizzie (other than its title!).
What was the audience’s response to Lizzie after the Festival?
Audience responses have been incredibly gratifying. At the Festival, the tremendous show of support from the NAMT community was overwhelming—there were so many great moments. One of our favorites: an older man came up to Alan saying “You know what you’ve done here, don’t you? This is Tommy meets Sweeney Todd!” Well, besides the fact that we love both of those and it’s very flattering to be compared to them, we’ve always seen Lizzieas somehow situated exactly between those two worlds, so for this guy to get that was a great sign for us that we’d succeeded.
What has changed in the show since the Festival?
We’ve made a handful of tweaks and a couple of bigger changes. There are 2 whole new songs. One is a solo for Lizzie, “This Is Not Love,” near the beginning of the show that we hope gives the audience a clearer idea of where she’s starting from emotionally, psychologically. We also replaced the ending with a less ambiguous statement of Lizzie’s apotheosis into legend, “Into Your Wildest Dreams.” And we have officially dropped “Borden” from the title—the show is now called simply Lizzie.
You recently had a change of commercial producers. How did that come about and what was the decision process like for you to decide to change things up?
We’ve been lucky enough to have very passionate and committed people believe in and support Lizziethroughout her development. We are psyched to now be working with Brisa Trinchero, Van Dean and Kenny Howard, whose producing credits among them include Peter and the Starcatcher, Evita, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, How to Succeed…, Bonnie & Clyde and others. We met Brisa and Van through NAMT, of course, and Kenny through Van. Lizzieis not a conventional musical and this team really gets it.
Baldwin Wallace University and PlayhouseSquare recently did a production of Lizzie in Cleveland. What did you guys learn from hearing the show on college voices?
Vicky Bussert has some ferociously talented charges in her care and she gets knock-out performances from them! What was especially fun for us was that she double-cast the show, so we got to see back-to-back performances by different casts but with the same direction, staging, choreo, design, etc. It’s nice to see, despite how tightly constructed and through-composed the show is, how much wiggle-room there still is for the actors. It was also great to experience the show with college audiences, who had no reservations about cheering, applauding and otherwise reacting to it like the intense rock concert/theatre hybrid it is.
Village Theatre is preparing for a developmental production this August, following a reading at their Festival last year. What do you hope to learn from this process?
Often the most important stuff you learn is stuff you didn’t anticipate, so it’s hard to say. We’ll experience working with a bunch of new people. The band, with the exception of our MD Matt Webb, will be local musicians. There will be three new cast members, two of whom we haven’t met yet (also local performers) and the great Carrie Manolakos as Lizzie. We have a new director, Kent Nicholson, and we’re already enjoying working closely with him on preliminaries. We’re also really excited that the amazing Carrie Cimma, who was in our 2009 production and the presentation at NAMT, is returning as Bridget. We’ll be paying close attention to a lot of logistical things, such as sound design—as a bona fide rock-opera, the show places specific demands on sound.
For more information, please visit www.villagetheatre.org