Thanks to some wonderful folks, I will be
following the journey of a new musical currently
in the creative stages as it makes its
way from the paper to the stage. Its
a wonderful opportunity for all to see the
birth of a new work from the writing to
the stage. Hope you enjoy it as much as
a trend that seems to be more and more
prevalent on Broadway. Films are being
revamped for live stage musicals. And
there has been some great success with
shows like THE FULL MONTY, DIRTY ROTTEN
SCOUNDRELS, THE PRODUCERS and HAIRSPRAY.Well,
get ready because the trend continues
with the musical adaptation of the New
Line Cinemas film SECONDHAND LIONS.
the helm of this collaboration are Los
Angeles based composer and lyricist team
Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, writing
the music with book by acclaimed writer
Rupert Holmes (THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD).
Set in the 1950s, it tells the Story of
a shy, young boy who is sent to live with
his eccentric uncles for the summer and
ends up relishing in the wild stories
of their youth. This is Zachary and Weiners
first collaboration with Holmes.
and Weiner's credits include the original
family musical, MYSTERY OF THE DANCING
PRINCESSES, which was presented at the
Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and the National
Alliance for Musical Theatre Festival
in New York. They also have a Disney connection
which culminated in a stage musical entitled
TWICE CHARMED: AN ORIGINAL TWIST ON THE
CINDERELLA STORY., which premiered on
the Disney Cruise Line. They also wrote
an award-winning original song for Disney's
animated film CINDERELLA II: DREAMS COME
TRUE and are currently finishing work
on CINDERELLA III. Soon, they will team
up with Broadway producer Adam Epstein
for an animated musical film.
lot of folks have probably heard some
of their work in their most recent national
Folgers commercial. Zachary and Weiner's
songwriting talent extends beyond musicals
with their irreverent song for the new
Folgers' national campaign commercial.
Still hard at work on SECONDHAND LIONS,
the guys were up for answering a few questions
to give us an inside look at the new work
and some background on themselves.
How did you two guys first meet?
AND WEINER: We attended high school
together at the Oakwood School in North
Was it a good match from the start?
AND WEINER: Absolutely. Our sensibilities
are very similar, yet different enough
that we're able to challenge each other
to create the best possible product we
can. We began writing together in 1991,
after the animated film of Beauty and
the BEAST was released. We were so inspired
by the confluence of all the things we
loved - musical theatre, animation, and
film - that we decided to write our own
animated musical. We were 17 years old
shopping our screenplay and six song (and
very primitive) piano demo to major studios
in Los Angeles. Throughout college and
beyond we kept plugging away until people
finally began to hire us to do what we
love to do. Recently, we were at Abbey
Road in London, recording a 75-piece orchestra
for the songs we wrote for Disney's CINDERELLA
3, and we constantly had to remind ourselves
that it was actually happening. We've
been extremely lucky!
All this talent in one place! Did
you guys attend school for music growing
AND WEINER: We have both studied piano
and music theory since childhood. Alan
majored in music at Amherst College, while
Michael attended UCLA.
So SECONDHAND LIONS the Musical, how did
you guys get onboard for this project?
We were hired by Mark Kaufman, a fantastic
executive at New Line Cinema, who served
as executive producer on the film as well.
Mark had heard our demo CD, and offered
us the opportunity to "demo"
some songs for the show. We sent in our
demo and didn't have to wait long for
a response - Mark called literally the
next day with the news that both he and
Michael Lynne thought we were perfect
for the project.
What type of preparation goes into creating
this musical? Did you have a script to
work from or did you watch the movie and
go from there?
AND WEINER: Given that SECONDHAND
LIONS is based on a successful New Line
film, naturally we immersed ourselves
in the source material. After that, we
and bookwriter Rupert Holmes engaged in
a long period of discussions about how
to adapt the film to the stage. It was
important to all of us to honor the picture,
and at the same time create a satisfying
and thrilling theatrical experience. At
New Line's behest, a new character was
to be added right from the get-go, so
we felt assured that we weren't bound
to create a scene-by-scene translation
of the film to the stage. After the three
of us talked story endlessly, Rupert went
away and wrote a script/treatment of ACT
1. We encouraged him to include any thoughts
he may have for song moments. We then
in turn wrote songs for those moments,
sometimes creating new moments out of
scenes he'd written, or brainstorming
completely new ideas for numbers. Then
we'd send piano demos back to Rupert who
would rewrite and then incorporate our
songs into the book.
Has it been difficult in adapting this
piece for the stage?
AND WEINER: Well, we've been lucky
to have Rupert Holmes as our bookwriter!
The process has been quite exhilarating,
and the three of us have really enjoyed
our marathon meetings where we talk story,
songs, character and themes. It's always
a challenge creating a musical, regardless
of whether it's an original piece or based
on existing source material. But once
we found our avenue into the show, the
process has been very smooth.
the biggest challenge we've faced is that
the show takes place in two time periods
- 1960's Texas and Morocco of the 1920's.
The story from the past informs the characters
and the action in the 1960's, so they
are connected, but you have half as much
time to tell each individual story.
seems to be a trend lately, taking films
and bringing them to live theatre. Shows
like THE PRODUCERS, CHITTY CHITTY BANG
BANG, MARY POPPINS, HAIRSPRAY and THE
FULL MONTY have had varied levels of success
both in the states and abroad. Do you
feel extra pressure because a film has
had commercial success and now you have
part of the responsibility of making the
transfer to stage?
AND WEINER: As writers we always hope
and pray that people respond positively
to our work. We never want anyone to ask:
"What were they thinking?" or
"Why would they write that?"
We were excited by the prospect of musicalizing
SECONDHAND LIONS because we felt that
we could adapt the film to the stage and
add a whole new layer to the piece that
you couldn't show on screen. For instance,
the film's flashbacks work beautifully
with Michael Caine narrating through a
voiceover the story of his swashbuckling
adventures with his brother. But in the
musical, we needed to give an actual "voice"
to characters who had no dialogue. Rupert's
fresh and clever take on the film's sultan
and princess got us very excited, and
the songs just flowed from there. So to
answer your question, the pressure comes
from wanting to honor the original film
and at the same time, give the audience
a new and engaging theatrical experience.
OK, speaking of Rupert Holmes, what
has it been like collaborating with him
on the project?
AND WEINER: Working with Rupert is
truly an honor and joy. He is endlessly
and effortlessly collaborative - always
willing to listen to our ideas
never precious about his own - and always
working with a keen eye towards creating
the best show possible. He challenges
us constantly, and has made our material
better than it would have been without
his input. We find ourselves working harder
just to impress him! The only negative
to working with Rupert is that all you
really want to do when you're with him
is listen to his fascinating stories about
the staggering variety of experiences
he's had in the business. He is a Renaissance
man if there ever was one, and to have
the opportunity to collaborate with not
only a brilliant creative mind - but a
generous human being - is an opportunity
for which we'll always be grateful.
Is the show geared toward a particular
type of audience or is it one that the
whole family will be able to see?
AND WEINER: SECONDHAND
LIONS is a show for the entire family.
It's about a young and reserved pre-teenage
boy named Walter who is dropped off to
spend the summer with his two eccentric
great uncles. Over the course of one amazing
summer, the tales his uncles tell him
instill in Walter the courage and strength
he needs to become a man. He experiences
first love with a girl, and he discovers
what it really means to be part of a family.
In turn, the older uncles, who have closed
themselves off from the outside world,
are reinvigorated by their young nephew
and because of him, learn that life is
to be lived while you are here on this
It truly is a great story that should
translate nicely to the stage.As far as
the music, what style of music can we
expect from SECONDHAND LIONS?
AND WEINER: The story of SECONDHAND
LIONS calls for a variety of musical styles.
A lot of the show takes place in Texas
in the 1960's, so we've played with a
broad country palette - classic western
film score music to Patsy Cline ballads
to bluegrass and rhythm and blues. Simultaneously,
flashbacks occur that take us to France
and Morocco in the 1920's, so we've had
the chance to explore a mythic Middle
Eastern sound as well as some traditional
Moroccan music. And of course, there's
always room for a French Can-can number.
Have there been any workshops done on
the musical so far and how was the reception
AND WEINER: We are still in the midst
of writing the show, and our first reading
will take place later this year.
Is there a target date when we can
expect SECONDHAND LIONS to premiere and
where will it happen?
AND WEINER: The show will most likely
receive an out-of-town tryout in 2008.
Probably a little too soon, but is
there a director lined up for the production
and are any performers currently attached
AND WEINER: The current plan is to
bring on a director as soon as we finish
the first draft. Likewise, performers
will be cast for the first reading.
So, do you guys have any particular influences
on your work?
AND WEINER: Our influences range from
the classic Broadway greats - Rodgers
& Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe,
- to more contemporary writers like Ashman
& Menken, Stephen Schwartz and Sondheim.
We both also have a great affinity for
classic movie musicals as well as the
pop/rock music we grew up with - ranging
from The Beatles to Billy Joel and Elton
John to U2 and Green Day. But most importantly,
we're influenced by the characters and
the world of the story we're telling.
We never write a song without first dissecting
exactly why that song must be in the show.
After the idea for the song has "fought
for its life" and "won,"
we determine what kind of music will further
illuminate the point we are trying to
make. We love assimilating musical styles,
making them our own, and creating a song
that hopefully informs character and/or
helps further plot, while providing an
audience with a melody and lyric that
stirs their emotions -- be it humorous
or intensely dramatic.
OK, everyone has a starting point
in their lives where they decide, This
is what I want to do when I grow up.When
did you decide this is what you wanted
to do for work?
My parents took me to see a production
of THE MUSIC MAN at the Pantages Theatre
in Los Angeles when I was three years
old and I begged them to take me back
every weekend. We must have seen the show
10 times. Soon after, a revival of CAMELOT
starring Richard Harris was in town, which
my parents also took me to each weekend.
Richard Harris got to know us, as I made
my parents wait with me by the stage door
to meet the actors. One day, he offered
us a backstage tour. It was standing on
that stage, looking out at the empty Pantages
auditorium, that I first realized that
my life would somehow revolve around the
theatre. Soon after, I began piano lessons,
acting classes, singing lessons. I was
I think my parents unintentionally
hardwired me from birth. I grew up on
a steady diet of classic movie musicals
and Broadway shows. I remember as a kid
singing "I've Grown Accustomed to
Her Face" while in the bathtub. And
my family always encouraged any seed of
talent I might have displayed, so when
I showed a passion for music, they supported
me. When I read my first screenplay at
11 and announced I was going to be a screenwriter,
they supported me. And in high school,
when I decided that musical theatre was
possibly the ultimate and most challenging
storytelling venture I could pursue, they
supported me. All they've asked for in
return is opening night tickets.
I see that you have done a lot of
work for Disney. Has working for them
influenced your work?
AND WEINER: It was always a dream
of ours to have our songs sung by Disney
animated characters, performed in a Disney
theme park, and become a small part of
one of the most treasured and beloved
musical catalogues in the world. But writing
for Disney has been no different than
writing for the theatre. The songs emerge
from the story and characters, and they
express themes and ideas that reflect
the human condition.
Thanks guys! Well talk again
thanks to Tom Kidd. And I hope you have
enjoyed this first installment in my series
on SECONDHAND LIONS. Well meet again
Fitzgerald has been around the New
England Theatre scene both as a participant
(acting and directing) as well being
a theatre fanatic since birth. He
had been a featured columnist on interviews
and theatre features for New England
Entertainment Digest since 1992 and
is currently a board member of the
New England Theatre Conference. His
past interviews have included Tony
Award winner Faith Prince, Tony Nominee
Brad Oscar (The Producers), Maureen
McGovern, (Little Women), Joanna Gleason
(Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Into The
Woods), Gregory Jbara (Chicago, Into
The Woods)and Stephen Schwartz (Wicked,
Godspell). It's been quite a life
thus far, folks and the best is yet