A unnamed major regional theatre is in talks with the creators of HeartLand, [sic] a new musical, which plans to have a single out-of town stop before coming to New York. Heartland is written by composer Kim Sherman with book and lyrics by author Darrah Cloud.
After a few years of development, during which the musical has run the gamut from the ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop to Connecticut's Goodspeed Opera House to Palo Alto's TheatreWorks, HeartLand may be nearing production. Linked to the project are producer Benjamin Mordecai and director Susan Schulman.
Composer Kim Sherman spoke with Playbill On-Line and said that sometime in the next few weeks the creative team behind HeartLand (one word, capital "L") expects to announce whether or not the "major regional" will be presenting the musical.
"The next few weeks will tell," Sherman told Playbill On-Line. "The plan is to do one regional run and then come to New York."
Sherman said HeartLand has had various workshops and while she "loves the people," who have supported the project, there is no way to predict the casting for the show before a theatre is committed. "As soon as we have the regional dates," Sherman said, "we can start to plan." What is certain is that Larry Yurman will be HeartLand's music director. The show will also be choreographed by Michael Lichtfeld, who worked with director Schulman on The Sound of Music. Lichtfeld and Schulman are currently said to be working on a production of Fiddler on the Roof at the Stratford Festival in Canada.
Schulman said there were several key points in the development of the play. At the ASCAP musical theatre workshop last year, for instance, Sherman said she had her "first chance to really start a dialogue with director Schulman." Following an ASCAP sponsored staged reading of HeartLand in the Berkshires, Sherman said she began working with Susan Shulman on a major rewrite process. "We're in the middle of Act II right now, and it's in good shape," Sherman said.
In HeartLand, the cast of seven includes a mother who calls her three daughters back to Moscow, Iowa, during a period of family crisis, which begins to consume them all. In a clear parallel to Chekhov's Three Sisters, the sisters in HeartLand encounter similar circumstances to those experienced by Chekhov characters.
"But in Three Sisters," Sherman said, "the sisters desperately want to get back to Moscow -- in HeartLand, however, they need to get out of Moscow.
Sherman is an established composer who provides incidental music for two or three plays a year, often for productions of Shakespeare's works, but also for original plays. In the chamber music field, she has seen success with librettist Erik Ehn with the inclusion of their a capella piece, Service for the Dead in Bosnia-Herzegovina on the Catalyst Records (BMG) release "Musica Sacra," conducted by Richard Westenberg.
-- By Murdoch McBride