Lyricist-librettist Anthony Drewe and composer George Stiles, the British duo behind the Olivier Award-winning musical, Honk!, which will have more than 80 productions in the United State this year, are developing two new projects, Drewe told Playbill On-Line.
Sticking with their track record for turning children's stories into musical theatre gold ("The Ugly Duckling" became Honk!), the writers are creating Soho Cinders, a modern Cinderella tale "set in Soho, in an internet cafe." The Soho of the title is meant to be the London neighborhood, but Drewe said they are keeping it general enough that it could be set in the downtown Manhattan 'hood named for being south of Houston Street.
The writers are halfway through another musical, Frost at Midnight, based on an old French play (set in the 16th century) whose translation in The Three Blows at Midnight, Drewe said.
No plans for productions have yet been announced.
* Tiny Honk! memorably skunked The Lion King and won Best New Musical in London's Olivier Awards in 2000. "Ordinarily I don't think it would have made the front page of the newspapers, but it was the whole story of a duck beating a lion that the British press cottoned onto," Drewe said. "And it was the first British musical staged at the National Theatre."
Londoners Drewe and Stiles also wrote the musicals, Tutankhamun, Peter Pan and the Cameron Mackintosh-produced Just So (based on the Kipling stories), as well as revues.
How did Drewe and composer Stiles meet? The writer started out wanting to direct, although his studies at Exeter university focused on biology and zoology. "I thought I was going to be a biology teacher," Drewe said. "Yet I am from a very musical family. My older brother, who is two years older than me, has written five or six musicals — he's a composer. When I went to university, I started directing my brother's musicals with a student company at a professional theatre, which happened to be in the middle of the university campus. It was run all-year round as a professional rep company but they would allow the Gilbert and Sullivan Society to have a week, and I formed this new company called Stage Door, just to do new musicals. And they let me have a week. In my second year at university I directed one of my brother's shows. In my third year at university I directed another of my brother's shows, and George Stiles was in the cast. I knew he was a talented composer. Literally, after the last night of that show, in 1983, I said, 'Would you like to try to write a musical?'"
Honk! has made the loudest noise for Drewe and Stiles. The show is currently running in Denmark, Tel Aviv and there are three stagings planned for the Los Angeles area, plus a Japanese version and a Singapore staging. "George and I went out for the opening [in Denmark] because that's where Hans Andersen came from, so it meant a lot that we were being accepted in his home town," Drewe said.
Coincidentally, this weekend (Jan. 25-27) Honk is getting another airing at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, NY, the venue where the tuner had its American premiere four years ago.
— By Kenneth Jones