At the cast recording sessions for the upcoming Gypsy CD, Ashmanskas spoke with Playbill On-Line about his newest project, which he is co-writing with Peter Flynn. Ashmanskas is composing the score and Flynn the lyrics. Said Ashmanskas: "We wrote a musical version of 'The House of Mirth,' the Edith Wharton novel, called Lily... We're sort of in chats right now about getting a workshop together, possibly in the fall or early next year."
Ashmanskas and Flynn, the latter a writer-director who will helm the upcoming Chess benefit concert for The Actors' Fund of America, have written the lead role for actress Andrea Burns, Flynn's wife and star of such musicals as Beauty and the Beast, The Full Monty and the national tour of Parade. About Burns, Ashmanskas had nothing but praise: "As far as I can think, she's the best person for the role. I wouldn't settle just because she's a pal and the book writer's wife. All three of us have talked about it, and I really think she's the best person for the part."
Although he's previously written instrumental music, Lily will mark Ashmanskas' first full score. "It's a very baroque score," said Ashmanskas. "It's sort of annoyingly detailed and thematic. Certainly [I've been influenced by] Sondheim, mostly in structure of songs, not in sound. I don't think the music sounds like Sondheim nor the lyrics — [more] in the way he structures and when people choose to sing. But, also, every musical that ever's been written [has influenced me], just by proxy, of course. Everything I've done has sort of put me into this position."
"The House of Mirth," Wharton's first big success as a novelist, takes an exacting look at late-1800s New York society through the experience of the beautiful, well-connected, but suddenly cash-poor Lily Bart. Throughout the novel, Lily navigates between her romantic and social ideals and her ever-growing need to make a viable living and find a highly placed, marriageable mate. A combination of compromised values, corrupt societal mores and misunderstandings eventually catches up with her in an unexpectedly brutal way.
Ashmanskas made his Broadway debut in the revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. His other Main Stem credits include Dream and Little Me. Off-Broadway he has appeared in Wise Guys, Labor Day, Songs for a New World, London Suite and It Changes Every Year.