Princesses, Musical Merging of Hollywood and Hodgson Burnett, Gets NYC Reading Before Regional Bow

News   Princesses, Musical Merging of Hollywood and Hodgson Burnett, Gets NYC Reading Before Regional Bow Princesses, the ascendant new musical with score by lyricist David Zippel and composer Matthew Wilder, and book by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, will have a March 15-19 reading in Manhattan.

The process is expected to be the first time the most recent draft of the show is fully explored, though it culminates in an hourlong excerpt for a private industry reading March 19.

Brent Barrett (Chicago), Donna English (Goodspeed Musicals' On the 20th Century) and Jenny Fellner (Mamma Mia!) are part of the reading, directed by Zippel (City of Angels).

The creative team is on the edge of a deal to debut their work at a major regional theatre, Playbill On-Line has learned. Princesses is expected to dawn this fall under Zippel's direction.

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Screenwriters Bill and Cheri Steinkellner recently found success as writers of the well-reviewed "Teacher's Pet," the new Disney animated picture. Zippel met the Steinkellners when he was briefly linked (by one meeting) as a potential lyricist on "Teacher's Pet." The direction of the movie shifted and Zippel didn't end up on the project. But he liked the Steinkellners' sensibilities so much that he pitched them the idea for Princesses, a contemporary stage musical that references the classic novel-for-girls, "A Little Princess."

As previously reported by Playbill On-Line, the show has music by Matthew Wilder ("Mulan"), book by the Steinkellners (Emmy Award-winning veteran writers of TV's "Frasier") and lyrics by Zippel (City of Angels, "Hercules"). A cutting of the developing show was seen in the National Alliance for Musical Theatre (NAMT) Festival of New Musicals in September 2003, and there have been refinements since then, Zippel previously said.

A hunky young character has been added, for example, to punctuate the largely female world of the show.

Princesses is a musical within a musical about a group of "seen-it-all, too-hip-for-their-roommates private school girls" who are forced by an enthusiastic teacher (played by English) to put on a production of Frances Hodgson Burnett's Victorian classic, "A Little Princess."

According to earlier presentation notes about the show, "At the center of Princesses are two father-daughter stories.  The contemporary story revolves around 16-year old Miranda Finck (played by Fellner) and her father, superstar Kevin Finch (Brent Barrett) — once Shakespeare in the Park's lauded Henry IV, now People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive. Miranda feels dumped in the exclusive Reardon School by her jet-setting father after her mother's death.  A 'quality time' visit from Kevin results in his taking charge of the struggling student show with hilarious consequences.  Simultaneously we watch the parallel father-daughter story of 'A Little Princess' unfold as the school production progresses from auditions through rehearsals with both stories resolving onstage on opening night."

The idea for the show was Zippel's. He envisions a cast of 14-20. Lyricist Zippel is a Tony Award-winner for City of Angels and a two-time Oscar nominee ("Hercules," "Mulan"). The Steinkellners produced and wrote seven seasons of "Cheers." Wilder is an Oscar and Grammy nominee who penned the score to Disney's "Mulan" and pop songs for No Doubt, Christina Aguilera, and Kelly Clarkson.

The score contains contemporary pop, sung by the girls, musical comedy numbers and a slightly more traditional sound for the show within a show.

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Tom Wopat, Julie Halston and Jenny Fellner appeared in the 2003 NAMT presentation in New York City.

Composer Andrew Lippa is working with lyricist-librettist Brian Crawley on an unrelated adaptation of the novel, "A Little Princess." It has its world premiere Aug. 18 at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, CA. Susan Schulman directs.

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