The world-premiere Amsterdam production of Cy Coleman's Grace, the Musical, about Princess Grace of Monaco being torn between her Prince Rainier, Alfred Hitchcock and her father, shut down on Wednesday, according to sources in the New York theatre community.
The news first appeared here on internet message boards. Cy Coleman was out of his office and not immediately available, but he previously told Playbill On-Line that no matter what the future of the Dutch-language staging in Amsterdam, he was seeking English-language collaborators to work with him on new book and lyrics for the lush-sounding musical.
Songs from the show had their Manhattan premiere Jan. 18 at Carnegie Hall, when the Dutch stars, Joke de Kruijf, Ernst Daniel Smid and Rob van de Meeberg, flew in to sing excerpts at an all-Coleman tribute concert.
Producer Bert Maas was so passionate about the musical that he built a theatre — The Grace Theatre, with murals depicting Monaco on the walls — to house it. He could not be immediately reached.
With Dutch lyricist-librettist Seth Gaaikema, Coleman worked long-distance and in-person. They would meet overseas or in New York in 2000 and 2001. The show opened Oct. 25, 2001, and has choice Broadway talent involved. Maas previously told Playbill On-Line that he knew Americans create the best musicals, so he sought U.S. artists when putting Grace together over the past year. Don Sebesky (a Tony Award winner for Kiss Me, Kate) is the orchestrator, Patricia Birch (Parade) is the choreographer and Eugene Lee (Sweeney Todd, Ragtime) is the set designer. (Rien Bekkers is the costume designer, Frans Weisz is the director.)
The show came together very quickly between 2000-2001, although the idea for a Grace musical was pitched to Maas as early as 1995. It wasn't until Gaaikema came up with the idea of a kind of creative love triangle for the show's plot that Maas knew there was musical potential for the subject of American film actress Grace Kelly, who would marry Prince Rainier of Monaco. The fictionalized plot has director Alfred Hitchcock wooing Kelly back to Hollywood, and her being torn between two kingdoms and two forms of royalty — Hitchcock and Rainier. Coleman said Kelly's father is also a major force in the musical.
Coleman and Gaaikema worked together by long distance, with occasional visits to each other's home country. Maas said the show is a traditional book musical in the Broadway tradition.
Maas, a real estate developer with a passion for the theatre, has been a lifelong fan of the late Kelly, whose fairytale story made her an American Cinderella of the 20th century, "I always admired her movies," Maas said earlier this year, by phone from the Netherlands. "I always admired the way she brought Monaco out of a slump. Every year we went on holiday there...she came on the scene, and all of the sudden you saw Monaco climbing out of its poorness and sadness."
Because of a lack of theatre availability in Holland, Maas constructed the Grace Theatre and adorned the interior with murals showing the palace of Monaco.
How does an American composer write a score for a new musical when the libretto and the lyrics are in Dutch?
In the case of Grace, Tony Award-winning composer Cy Coleman said he worked the same way you do when everyone speaks the same language. It's all about craft and story, Coleman told Playbill On-line.
"Before we even got started, we had to discuss the subtext of the musical, the emotional line, which is what I do and what the lyricist does," Coleman said. "We had to decide what kind of score we're going to have to do. A lot of that was determined by the fact that they cast it before the show was written, which is amazing to me. They have to do that in Holland, they told me, because if you want some stars, there's a limited talent pool."
Producer Maas snagged Dutch stars Joke de Kruijf and Ernst Daniel Smid, to play Kelly and Monaco's Prince Rainier, respectively, and Rob van de Meeberg as film director Hitchcock.
"When I heard Ernst's voice and Joke's voice, and Rob's, I realized I'm gonna have to write big music," Coleman said. "These are not small voices. Musically, I wanted to do a meld of European style and American style — the European feeling along with American pizzazz. That fascinated me. The way we worked, we would talk about what the emotional purpose was, what the emotional point was, and I would either compose something and start it, or then when he had some ideas I would say, 'Tell it to me in Dutch.' I asked him to pronounce the rhythmics, how they would say it rhythmically. So then I would get four or five lines and set those and use that as a base for constructing the rest of the song. Ernst's big number over there was constructed in just that way. Part of the thing with Dutch, it ends with a lot feminine rhymes, there's always double syllables. For the sake of the music, I had to push him into more masculine rhymes sometimes — I wanted to just end on a note."
The melodies will be preserved for the English language version, Coleman said, and there is producer interest in the show, but no plans yet for Broadway or London.
The show "was an even bigger challenge than you might think. [Choreographer] Pat [Birch] and I were working with a director that had never done a musical."
What's the next step toward an English language librettist and lyricist?
"I want to get somebody of worth who can give us an English version with a real psychological story, and have some humor," Coleman said. "Somebody who can write. I have a few names but I don't want to mention them right now. There are people I am thinking about for lyrics, too. Marilyn and Alan Bergman have expressed interest in it."
How was the Tony Award-winning composer of City of Angels, Barnum, On the 20th Century and Sweet Charity approached to write a Dutch musical about international American-born icon Kelly?
"The pitch that was made to me was this," Coleman told. "They came to see me in London and they said they had a musical about Grace Kelly. I'm always of the opinion that it's not what you do, but the way that you do it. So I said, 'What about Grace Kelly?' They said it was Hitchcock's version of her life. That immediately sparked my imagination. And the show takes place in Hitchcock's sound stage, and everything grows out of that — Monaco and all that. It has some dark tones. It's not just the Royal Family in Monaco. It's about the nouveau riche of the Kellys as opposed to the old aristocracy."
Maas said he hopes the musical will become an international franchise along the lines of Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera Maas said there is interest from producers in Japan, Germany, Belgium and elsewhere, and he hopes it plays on Coleman's home turf, Broadway.
— By Kenneth Jones