Dale Wasserman, whose libretto for Man of La Mancha encouraged theatregoers to use their imaginations, is working an another musical project about imagination and creative inspiration: Jockey on a Rocking Horse.
The new five-person musical will have an original book and lyrics by Wasserman and music by Michel Legrand, telling the “abstract” tale of a schlock popular novelist in the 1990s who conjures the world of 1920s Paris and communes with the real-life model-performer, Kiki of Montparnasse.
“It’s a story of what people think they are going to become, when they are young and idealistic, and what they actually become,” explained Wasserman.
Wasserman called it a “musical play” with little scenery and many “abstract” time and place shifts. He expects a staging of it to include “high tech images” rather than realistic sets.
Wasserman told Playbill On-Line Jan. 28 that he and Legrand (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” the Sheldon Harnick A Christmas Carol) have “worked on and off” on the project for years. “It finally sort of came together,” he said, adding that it is still a work-in-progress with no full-production plans yet. In February 1999 he and Legrand are recording a demo with singers to be determined, and Wasserman hopes a reading will happen over the summer.
Kiki, a cabaret singer and model who was highly selective about the artists she posed for (Chagall, Man Ray, Picasso and more), is the catalyst for the writer character, a sort of Harold Robbins, who once aimed higher than sexy schlock novels.
“Kiki recognized real genius -- real talent -- when she saw it,” said Wasserman.
The show’s title is also a “bawdy” cabaret song sung by Kiki, describing herself.
Another new work by Wasserman is in the discussion phase for a staging in Seattle: A new family musical, Mountain High, with book and lyrics by Wasserman and music by Alan Jay Friedman, is set in the American west in 1840. It involves “mountain men, ‘Indians’ and a lost boy,” Wasserman said.
Man of La Mancha is hotter than ever: In 1998, the musical based on Cervantes' “Don Quixote” had about 400 international stock, amateur or professional stagings.
-- By Kenneth Jones