HOUSTON -- Two weeks into rehearsal and librettist David Hahn has happy feet, if you will, about his work on a new musical Hot Shoe Shuffle, which has its world premiere at Theatre Under The Stars in Houston March 7-22. "There hasn't been one major change," he said, veritably kicking up his heels.
In what's being billed as "Crocodile Dundee meets 42nd Street," seven tap-dancing brothers from "down under" learn about love and family as they search for fame and fortune, first in Australia then on Broadway. The composer is Megan Cavallari, the lyricist is David Goldsmith, and the director and choreographer is David Atkins.
Hot Shoe Shuffle debuted in 1992 in Australia in a different form, as a revue. A smash with the public, it has, for the past five years, gone on extensive nationwide tours as well as traveled to New Zealand, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
Additional creators were involved, and deleted, and others added, as the project began to be reshaped into its current, more standard musical-theater form.
The initial show contained all preexisting music. Hahn was brought in at the beginning of the year to enable Cavallari and Goldsmith to insert new book songs, which now constitute some 80 percent of the score. Hahn was also charged with making audiences care about the characters. And he was asked to shore up the plot. "Hot Shoe Shuffle had to be reconceived as an American musical," Hahn explained. He provided structure, context, background. "If I'm a jeweler, I'm not the diamond, I'm the platinum setting." Fond of similes, Hahn continued, "If the show is a pastry, it had luscious icing but needed cake."
A screenwriter with projects now in development for HBO and ABC television, Hahn is also an award-winning filmmaker, with his dance romance, In a Rehearsal Room, a fantasy short, in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. He has directed numerous documentaries, the music video "Heard it Through the Grapevine" for the movie The Big Chill, and an episode of television's Fame.
Perhaps most impressively, he counts the writer Larry Gelbart (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, City of Angels, M*A*S*H) as his mentor. In fact, the two are so close that Hahn said Gelbart is allowing him to help rewrite his 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 a musical comedy about the Old Testament that was workshopped nearly a decade ago at Manhattan Theatre Club but never went further. With Maury Yeston as composer and lyricist, it will premiere at Maine State University this summer.
About Hot Shoe Shuffle, Hahn said, "I would like it very much to be known how truly incredible it is that David Atkins has let me come in with a scalpel. To trust someone with his baby is a honor. And a testament to his desire for the objectivity mandatory for success."
Hot Shoe Shuffle runs March 7-22 at the Music Hall in Houston. For tickets, $15 - $48, call 1-800-678-5440. It then travels to The 5th Avenue Musical Theatre Company in Seattle and the Ordway Music Theatre in St. Paul.
-- By Peter Szatmary