By Kenneth Jones
30 Jun 2004
Previews began June 19. Stafford Arima (London's Ragtime, Paper Mill's Guys and Dolls) directs the new musical by David Evans (music), Douglas Cohen (lyrics) and "Children's Letters to God" author Stuart Hample (book).
Carolyn Rossi Copeland in association with The Lamb's Theatre Company produces the staging. Quoting real letters from real kids, the show has a group of young performers (aged 10-15) including Gerard Canonico, Jimmy Dieffenbach, Libbie Jacobson, Sara Kapner and Andrew Zutty.
"What drew me to Children's Letters to God was its universal message about discovery and wonderment," director Arima told Playbill On-Line. "Stuart, Doug and David have created an engaging and utterly charming musical that truly celebrates and illuminates those questions in life everyone asks. What I love about the material is that it crosses the boundaries of age, geography and religion: Everyone can connect with this material whether he or she is 10 years old or 90, or whether he or she is from the United States, Canada or Korea. Most importantly, the show deals with questions and issues that are related to life and not a specific religion."
Among the questions asked by the letter-writers: "Dear God: How did you know you were God?" and "Are you really invisible or is that just a trick?" and "How come you did all the miracles in the old days and you don't do any now?"
Patti Wilcox handles musical staging. Designers are Anna Louizos (set), Kirk Bookman (lighting), Peter Hylenski (sound) and Gail Brassard (costume).
The Lamb's Theatre is at 130 West 44th Street. For information, visit telecharge.com, call (212) 239-6200 or visit www.ChildrensLetterstoGod.com.
Hample is the author, illustrator or editor of over 20 books, including the book that inspired the musical. He collaborated with Woody Allen on the syndicated comic strip "Inside Woody Allen" and wrote for the CBS series "Kate & Allie" as well as The Comedy Zone, produced by the Nederlanders. His two books for 2004 are "Happy Cat Day: A Manifesto for An Official Cat Holiday" and "The Silly Book" for children. Hample studied playwriting with Edward Albee at Circle In The Square Theatre and appeared as "Mr. Artist" on the CBS TV show "Captain Kangaroo."
Evans received a Drama Desk Nomination for his score for Off-Broadway's Birds of Paradise (written with Winnie Holzman and directed by Arthur Laurents.) His musical, Love Comics, was produced at the George Street Playhouse several seasons ago. He has written songs for several hit Off-Broadway shows including A...My Name Is Alice, and for several television shows, including "Sesame Street" and "Square One TV." He has written nine musicals for Theatreworks USA and two musicals for the TADA theatre company. An accomplished musical director and pianist as well, Evans has conducted and played on Broadway, Off-Broadway and at regional theaters throughout the country.
Cohen received two Richard Rodgers grants and the Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation Award for contributing book, music, and lyrics to No Way To Treat A Lady (produced off-Broadway at the York Theatre Company and Hudson Guild, with numerous regional and international productions) and The Gig (MTC City Center, Goodspeed, Sacramento Music Circus, Bostonis Lyric Stage). Current musical projects include writing music and lyrics for the Broadway bound new musical, The Opposite Of Sex (based on the recent Don Roos film) with co-librettist/director Robert Jess Roth; The Big Time (composer-lyricist), an original musical with playwright Douglas Carter Beane and director Mark Brokaw; Glimmerglass (composer) produced by Goodspeed Opera House; and Barnstormer (composer), which was awarded a NAMT Producer-Writer Initiative Grant and is being developed at the Lark Theatre Co. with playwright Cheryl L. Davis and director Jerry Dixon.
Arima was nominated for a 2004 Best Director Olivier Award for staging Ragtime in London. He is currently directing Guys and Dolls at Paper Mill Playhouse.
Wilcox's credits include Blues In The Night for the New York revival as well as the national and international companies (Drama Logue Award and also NAACP Image Award nomination), Seussical the Musical (national tour), Guys and Dolls (Paper Mill Playhouse), Smokey Joe's Cafe (North Shore Music Theatre) and The Pajama Game (Marriott Lincolnshire).