Audiences have been cheering the New York debut of the four-actor romantic coming-of-age musical at the 50-seat John Houseman Studio since Sept. 17. Presented with just piano and voice in the basement space, the show is expected to come above ground in the new year if the details can be worked out, Childs said. He's speaking to theatre owners and producing partners.
The company would remain intact. Lyricist-librettist Sean Hartley and composer Jihwan Kim penned the musical comedy for two men and two women playing multiple roles, but principally assuming Venus, Cupid, Psyche and Mercury, respectively.
The cast includes Mamma Mia! veteran Barrett Foa (Cupid), newcomer Deborah Lew (Psyche, the mortal Illyrian princess who falls for Cupid), The Full Monty vet Laura Marie Duncan (Venus, Cupid's mother, goddess of beauty and love) and newcomer Logan Lipton (Mercury, Cupid's best friend). Both Foa and Lipton are grads of the University of Michigan musical theatre program.
Childs said he'll expand the band to about five pieces and hopes to play in a theatre seating 150-200.
Observers of the playful, theatrical show say the musical has the fragile and universal charms of The Fantasticks and can see it having long run in the right space in New York. Its regional prospects increase with a presence in New York, though it has already had several productions around the country, partly due to its economical cast size.
"It should, I think, play in a lot of places in the country," Childs said. "The longer it plays in New York the more visibility it gets and the quicker theatres out there can find it."
Toward expanding the show's visibility, Childs expects a cast recording to be created in the coming months.
Childs said the Sept. 17-Oct. 26 commercial mini-contract Equity run was a testing of the New York waters for the show, and audiences and critics have embraced the quirky and anachronistic property.
"The idea of it was to see how it would be received," Childs said.
Despite the fact that newspapers consistently print stories about how difficult it is, economically, to put on a show these days, the tiny nature of the Cupid and Psyche test run discouraged critics from major papers from paying attention.
"People who have seen the show really have liked it a lot," Childs said, adding that he's worked on or invested in more than 40 shows and only two others had response as favorable; one of them was Patrick Stewart in A Christmas Carol.
The fall run of Cupid and Psyche was useful to the writers, Childs said. Rewrites happened during previews and other areas for tweaks were identified, to be addressed when rehearsals begin again.
How did Childs come across the show? He asked agent Scott Shukat to recommend a lyricist for an unrelated project, and Sean Hartley's Cupid and Psyche was submitted to Childs. The producer fell in love with it.
The musical was a favorite when it was heard in its developing stages in the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, and was seen in Manhattan readings in 2001 (National Alliance for Musical Theatre and National Musical Theatre Network). Stagings of the show were also seen in Ashland, OR, Seattle and Norwich, CT.
Childs is directing and producing the New York debut under the umbrella of The Imagination Company at the 50-seat John Houseman Studio Theatre on 42nd Street. (Not to be confused with the 74-seat Houseman Studio A down the hall, which is housing the new musical revue, Golf, come October).
Here's how the show is billed: "Cupid and Psyche is a mythical musical about a boy, a girl and his mother. This new musical tells the comic tale of a forbidden romance and the thwarted efforts of Venus, the goddess of love, as she tries to come between her son Cupid and the bright and beautiful mortal Psyche."
Devanand Janki, lauded for directing and choreographing Zanna, Don't!, choreographs Cupid and Psyche.
Designers are Christine Darch (costumes), Aaron Mason (lights) and David Swayze (set). Peter Yarin and Jihwan Kim played piano at performances. Musical supervisor and additional arrangements were by Edward G. Robinson.
Lyricist-librettist Sean Hartley's songs have been performed on the Disney Channel's "The Book of Pooh" and "Bear in the Big Blue House." He was the founding artistic director of the Cape Cod Theater Ensemble, and is currently the director of the theatre wing at the Kaufman Center in New York. He wrote songs and performed in the long-running musical revue Paranoise, for which he won CaB magazine's Performer of the Year award. His musicals for children include Number the Stars and Young Moses.
Composer Jihwan Kim started piano at the age of five and began studying music at the Juilliard School at age 10. He has performed throughout the New York metropolitan area, including Carnegie Hall, Steinway Hall and Merkin Hall, and has performed with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Little Orchestra Society and the Bronx Symphony Orchestra.
Together with Sean Hartley, they have written five musicals for children, Tsugele, The Frog Prince, The Gardner, Wise and Old and The Ghost of El Castillo.
Director Timothy Childs is a producer, director and writer. He has produced on Broadway, in London and several national tours, including Annie, A Christmas Carol, Broken Glass (Broadway), Mnemonic, Jeffrey and the national tour of Swing.
Performances play only through Oct. 26. For ticket information, call (212) 868-4444 or visit www.smarttix.com.