Broadway and movie songwriter Stephen Schwartz composed a clutch of new songs for the small-screen, live-action musical, "Geppetto," which tells the adventures of Pinocchio's father, premiering 7-9 PM (ET) May 7 on ABC's "The Wonderful World of Disney."
Years ago, Schwartz, known for Godspell, Pippin, Working, Rags and more, plus songs for "Pocahontas," "Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Prince of Egypt," had the idea for a stage show about what Geppetto was going through while Pinocchio was seeing the world.
He and screenwriter David Stern discussed the idea but Stern relocated to Los Angeles and it wasn't until producer Mike Karz asked Stern if he might be interested in working on a live action musical that "Geppetto" resurfaced. The project took wing at Disney, which had produced the classic animated picture, "Pinocchio."
"I've Got No Strings" is the only song from the animated feature retained in the new TV movie musical.
The picture stars Drew Carey as the 19th-century Italian toymaker who fashions a boy out of wood (played by Seth Adkins). Julia Louis-Dreyfus is The Blue Fairy, Brent Spiner (Broadway's 1776 revival) is evil Stromboli and Rene Auberjonois (Coco, Big River) is Prof. Buonragazzo. "It's an entirely different structure from what I've done in the past," Schwartz said in Disney production notes. "It's a seven-act structure, so the placement of the songs is determined partly by where the breaks come in. And it's quite formalized. Each act has a certain length, and there's a musical number in each one, as well as a song at the close."
Schwartz composed eight new songs for "Geppetto." Director Tom Moore said Schwartz was "very instinctive about story points. He creates songs that grow out of the material, that become important character pieces in their own right, as well as show pieces."
"I think people are going to be very surprised at how well Drew sings," Schwartz said in production notes, "and also at how well he takes on the character of Geppetto without losing his own essential personality or the quality that makes him a star."
What style of music has Schwartz -- known for "Corner of the Sky," "Day by Day" and "Magic to Do" -- created?
"The music of 'Geppetto' is light and funny," Schwartz said. "I used a lot of accordion and mandolin and other traditional Italian folk instruments combined with a pop sensibility to write the score."
"Geppetto" explores the idea of parenting and working hard for what you want. The toymaker apparently has an expectation that his magical child will be perfect.
"I like the theme of the song that I sing as the Blue Fairy," Louis-Dreyfus said in production notes. "The words, 'Just because it's magic/Doesn't make it easy,' are very appropriate for the world we're living in now. Somehow everyone's always looking for perfection and yet they also expect a quick fix. What the Blue Fairy tries to impart is the realization that you have to work at things. There's a kind of happiness that has to be earned, and then it's real happiness."
Among the song titles: "Toys," "Empty Heart," "And Son," "Just Because It's Magic," "Bravo Stromboli," "Satisfaction Guaranteed," "Pleasure Island," "Since I Gave My Heart Away."
For more information, check out the "Geppetto" website at http://disney.go.com/wonderfulworld/geppetto/
-- By Kenneth Jones