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Book, Music & Lyrics by Steven David Horwich
adapted from his short story, It’s A Girl, from the collection, Oy! Humbug!

MY RATING – This is an original show and is unrated.

INFO:
Cast Size:
  5 male leads, 3 female leads, 2 male support, no ensemble/ 7 men/3 women)
Orchestra: TBD, likely to be from 4-14 musicians for a full production.
Published Script: Available Upon Request.
Production Rights: If interested, contact us using our contact page, please.
Recording: Fully orchestrated demo of complete score with professional cast, which can be heard here.  (Features Kurt Andrew Hansen, Kelly Meyersfield, Gary Lamb, Donna Pieroni, Randy Wade Kelly, Jason Patrick Kennedy, Saige Spinney, Michael D’Elia, Michael Marchak, Michael Irazarri, Steven Horwich.  Orchestrations by Steven David Horwich.)
Other shows by the author: And The River Flows, Loveplay, 4 Lives In Two Acts, The Kingdom That Was, Sea Gulls  Collaborative: From Afar, Eden, Little Tramp, The Third Wish, Beautiful Poison

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:
A small sized show that can easily fill a larger space.  Can be done by a professional venue (Broadway, West End), colleges, regional theaters, and some little theaters looking for something daring and new, but professionally and tightly written.  Requires a capable cast for the acting and singing, a theater that can handle interesting lighting and (ideally but not required) multi-media.  Little or no dance.

THE STORY:

ACT ONE: A high lama, Langoo,  in a distant, mountaintop monastery has died.  Disembodied (we see him, obviously), he watches as his brothers cremate his body (“Gong And Bell”), and recalls the life that has just ended (“The Wheel Turns”).  He recalls himself as a young man (age changes and character changes are done using masks), attending the death of the high lama before him, Denju, a wise if smart-ass old man, and reluctantly assuming the reins.  The retreat is very conservative, unchanged for many hundreds of years, but Langoo is, for good or bad, destined to shake things up.  (“Once In A Blue Moon, part 1″) With his associate, Li, they are confronted shortly after Langoo takes over by a large and wealthy Texas woman, Julia, supported by many porters who have helped her up the mountain along with her many, many bags.  It see she has read a book called Lost Horizon, and decided that the mystical place in the book where people do not age, and peace can be found, must truly exist in these high mountains.  She has arrived to find peace, and wants to know where her room is, when dinner will be served, and why the place isn’t warmer.  (“Bags”)  It is far too cold and late to send her down the mountain, and her guides are gone.  Though women are not allowed into the monastery, Langoo permits her to stay.  The other monks are incensed, except Li, who is amused. (“As The Buddha Intended.”)  But in song (the first version of “There’s Got To Be A Place”, found in the middle of “As The Buddha Intended”), Langoo begs them to consider that Buddhists should see beyond bodies, that all human beings deserve a chance at peace and salvation.  And the place starts to change as Julia is admitted for training. (“More Me, part 1″)  Word gets out, and they are soon inundated by insane foreigners with strange expectations, all of whom have read that damned book, Lost Horizon. (“Once On A Blue Moon, part 2″)  They weather the storm and age. (“The Wheel Turns reprise”)  Near death, Langoo can see that perhaps he allowed too many things to change, and Li agrees with him. (“More Me part 2″)  We arrive at the point where he has died, and now he has floated out the ceiling (realizing the roof needs repair, but also that he is dead and can no longer do anything about it), to the top of a mountain.  Alone there, storms rage around him, but he feels nothing.  He desperately awaits Nirvana, a state of perfect peace, that he feels his life should have led up to.  All that he gets is the raging storms, the changing season, the woes of the world. (“Another Storm”)  he is finally joined by the disembodied spirit of his long-dead master, Denju.  Only now, the man sports a New York accent.  Denju also has not “ascended” into Nirvana, but instead has lived a wild, violent life completely unlike that of a Buddhist monk, and has died again.  Denju recommends to Langoo that he “take a vacation” from being a monk, live a little, pick up a life in America.  Langoo is resistant, but starts thinking about Julia, who died a few years back.  And with the smallest of unspoken wishes, Langoo is reborn!  But to his shock and horror, the new family welcoming back into the world (“The Birth Of An Angel”) is that of a severely fundamentalist Texas Baptist.  Langoo has gone from a solitary life as a Buddhist monk, lived in snow-capped, high mountains, to the flat, arid plains of Texas, in a family that longs to see “heathens” such as Langoo himself had been last lifetime, dead…and has been reborn on Christmas day…as a girl!

ACT TWO: A seven year-old Texas girl, Laura, edgy and alone, sings about her life, her love of bells (like those on her Christmas tree and in Church), and we start to understand though this is Langoo’s new life, his desires, his interests have not much changed.  This is reinforced by the fact that he himself ghosts her moves, the near-forgotten memory, and sings into her ear from time to time.  He is, after all, her.  (“Gong and Bell reprise”)  The boy next door, Ben, drops by to harass Laura, but she can hold her own.  We see that she is reaching for memories, but can’t quite get to them, since her current life is so involving. (“More Her part 3″)  It’s her birthday, and her unyieldingly religious, humorless father, cowed mother, and mean-spirited brother give her Bibles to give to the poor as a present.  (“Happy Birthday, Baby”)  But she feels that every year, since her birthday happens to be on Christmas, that she’s being “Robbed By Jesus”, a sentiment that does not go over well with her father.  And he views, her leanings, are distinctly Eastern and not particularly Christian, despite Laura’s father’s tirades.  Her mother begs Laura to be kinder to her father, and leaves her.  Alone, Laura states what she believes, and it is precisely what she believed last lifetime as Langoo, that “There’s Got To Be A Place” where people can live together, grow together, and discover life in peace.  She ages. (“More Her part 4″)  In her late teens, her mother dead, she prepares to the prom with…yes, nasty old Ben, the boy next door.  Her father, who admires her intelligence and stubbornness if not her Christianity, gifts her a dress that her mother once wore for the same purpose, and the man clearly does care for her, as much as he’s capable.  Ben arrives, and in his car, they admit their feelings for each other. (“Sort-Of Kind-Of”)  They are married, and have two sons, and Ben leaves to go to war during the song. She raises the boys and wonders at the strange turns of her life, as does Langoo, always present and watching through her eyes. “(“More Her part 5″)  But Ben is killed overseas.  Laura’s father and brother show up to give her the bad news, which has arrived at their house instead of hers.  She refuses to believe it at first. (“I Don’t Feel Like He’s Gone”)  But he is gone.  She raises her children, and they head off to their own proms.  They feel their mother is a little crazy, having occasional “visions” of other places, cold and mountainous, but they love her.  And in a moment, making rice, as Langoo had done thousands of times, she briefly recalls something – another life.  (“More Her part 6″)  But they all live in Vidor, Texas, and a major conflict arises when many people in town refuse to segregate housing, as the government has ordered.  A riot threatens to break out, and the woman mayor, a tough old bird, can’t entirely contain it. (“In A Sundown Town”)  During the song, Laura, who knows everyone in town, intrudes to shame the rioters into returning home.  She believes in change, and in people getting along.  She is, after all, Langoo.  Her father shows up to also shame the rioters, as their religious leader, and to quietly let his daughter know that he is dying of cancer.  He has a gift for her, a book he’s read many times in private in an attempt to understand his daughter and her strange ideas.  It is a dog-eared edition of Lost Horizon, and Laura and Langoo are both fascinated to at last be confronted by this book.  Laura ages, and is old.  She is near death, and Langoo, her memories, is with her.  Her sons hover close by, with limited understanding that, as she dies, she’s fairly sure she’ll come back again, in a place where peace and thought are encouraged.  She dies surrounded by memories from both lifetimes. (“There’s Got To Be A Place” reprise)

THE SONGS:
“Gong And Bell”; “The Wheel Turns”; “Once In A Blue Moon”; “Bags”; “As The Buddha Intended”; “More Me/More Her”; “Another Storm”; “The Birth Of An Angel”; “Happy Birthday, Baby”; “Robbed By Jesus”; “There’s Got To Be A Place”; “Sort-Of Kind-Of”; “I Don’t Feel Like He’s Gone”; “In A Sundown Town”

THE DEMO Fully orchestrated demo of complete score with professional cast, which can be heard here.  (Features Kurt Andrew Hansen, Kelly Meyersfield, Gary Lamb, Donna Pieroni, Randy Wade Kelly, Jason Patrick Kennedy, Saige Spinney, Michael D’Elia, Michael Marchak, Michael Irazarri, Steven Horwich.  Orchestrations by Steven David Horwich.)

MY OPINIONS:
I don’t offer opinions of my own shows.

MY RATING: We do not rate original shows.

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

This show has a complex score.  It is not a musical comedy, the songs are not structured like typical show tunes.  The influences on the score are Kurt Weill and Stephen Sondheim, if you know them then you know sort of what you’re in for.  The Musical Director must play and read very well.  He must know how to work with complex singer’s needs, harmonization and counterpoint.  No job for a novice.

In the cast, which should be cast largely without regard for race (they will wear masks much of Act I, parts of Act II), you’re looking for actors who sing very well, perform a song very well, and are strong actors.  Dance is not a part of the show.  It would be a big plus in rehearsals if your actors read music.

Langoo is a lyric baritone, warm voice, approachable to play against the stereotype “cold” Buddhist monk thing.  He sings A LOT.  A trained voice that will survive heavy work is required.  We had Kurt Andrew Hansen in our workshop, a Broadway vet with a beautiful voice, he was perfect.

Laura is a mezzo alto with a large range, a strong Texas twang, able to belt, and to sing a warm ballad.  Again, a lot of singing, must be trained, a survivor vocally.

Li, who doubles as Laura’s minister father, needs a better than serviceable light baritone or low tenor voice.   A fair amount of singing, some ensemble work.  Ideally, a strong actor who reads music.

Julia, who doubles in Act II as the mayor of Vidor, needs a fairly large, lovely mezzo-alto voice with good, strong, controlled top notes.  A deep, rich, “wealthy” voice that can transform into a Texas twang.

Ben is a tenor, romantic lead, sweet voice, Texas is Act II, doubles as a monk in Act I, without the twang.

Mother is a soprano with a Texas twang, clean, strong on top notes.  Can double as a monk, but probably not a great idea.

Others.  Two monks, one a tenor, the other a lyric baritone.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS

There is almost no dance in the show.  Movement, sure.  Dance, no.  No need to cast dancers.  A director comfortable and creative with movement to music focused on the meaning of he lyrics, and the emotion in the music, will not need a Choreographer.

CASTING CONCERNS:

The show has a small cast, so your actors must be strong, all of them.  There’s no where to hide a mediocre actor.

Langoo should be a physical presence, and a strong and likable actor with a self-declamatory sense of humor.  The role has many comic moments, so a strong comic actor who is capable of gaining sympathy, and who can reach a few dramatic moments, is what you need.  In Act II, though he sings and has some dialogue, the role is largely silent.  It would be a good idea to get an actor who moves well, and who communicates through movement decently well.  The vocal requirements are also considerable.  Probably best age 40-55.

Laura must do the Texas thing well.  She must play compellingly from young girl to old woman, a strong actor is required.  A real “musical comedy” actress would be a good move. Funny, edgy (even spiky), determined, a force.   She and Langoo are your “stars”, equally so.  Ideally they’d work well together, since they are playing the same character.  Probably best ages 30-45.

Li/Minister is a considerable acting role.  As Li, gently comic, calm-ish, but can be rattled.  He sees the world as a bit of a game as a young man, but grows conservative as he ages.  A man with a sense of humor, Langoo’s foil.  As the Minister, he is at first unyielding, and arguably mad.  An unforgiving disciplinarian who nonetheless can be “reached” and moved, despite himself.  A dedicated man of God and family man lacking a sense of humor.  A country boy grown up, Texas twang.  Around same age as Langoo, perhaps a hair older.

Julia/Mayor requires a woman of physical presence, and a very fine actress who can gently lampoon Western mores and ways by playing them clearly, while hinting at deeper reserves, needs and understandings unspoken and hidden away.  Needs a strong actress with the Texas twang.  In her 30s-40s, perhaps 50s.

Denju should play older, “wise and mature”, with a self-deprecating humor.  Later, he has a strong New York accent (important that it’s good).  A large part, needs a strong, imposing actor.  40s-450s.

Ben/Monk is your ingenue, age mid 20s-mid 30s.  Charming, funny, edgy, Texas twang in Act II.  Must play spiky romantic well.

Monks of varying ages, as many as you can cast, but at least two.  Decent actors who can be indignant, unaccepting, dismayed, alarmed.  Good comic actors if possible.

SETS:

This show is done best with projections, and limited cut-aways to suggest locations,  the more creative the better.  Think Ming Cho Lee.

Act I takes place in the monastery, and then on a Himalayan mountaintop.  The interior of the main room of the monastery, the only room we see, is large, airy, drafty, cool, and has a table and dais up center where Langoo’s body is burned (an effect).  That table should be quickly able to be reversed and become part of the peak of a mountain with an America Flag sticking up (blowing, a hidden silent fan in the cut-away).

Act II has several locations, but centers around a Baptist Church, not dissimilar to the Act I monastery.  The dais now holds a large cross with Jesus on it.  The rest of the sets except for a car (a cut-away) are projected, ideally.

So your set consists basically of a few cut-aways and a good cyclorama, ideally wrap-around the back and sides of your stage.  You’ll need interesting images to project.

COSTUMES:

All the actors wear masks which change as we go from Buddhist Monastery in Act I to Texas in Act II, and also change to show aging, new characters, etc.  YOU’LL NEED GREAT MASKS which allow the actor’s face to show, so they can act, but which imply each character and changing conditions.

Buddhist monks wear orange (saffron) robes, basically, not expensive.  The Texas garb is almost modern in many respects, also easy to borrow or buy.

PROPS:

Gongs and bells that mis-fire.  Buddhist and interesting props, keep it small and simple, like tea cups.  Act II, Bibles gift wrapped, that sort of thing.  Nothing very hard.

LIGHTING:

VERY IMPORTANT!  Must be alive, vital, reflective of location and emotion.  While in Tibet, on the cool side, shadows, mystery – but there must be musical comedy “looks” in a way, for many of the numbers.  Act II, hotter, dryer, harsh, Texas, a sense of flatness when compared to Act I.  A flexible light plot is essential for this show, and I would think seriously about using a follow spot for some solos and even duets.

MAKE-UP:

Well, masks, right?  Make-up needs to be kept simple, and work with the masks.

KEY PERSONNEL (The Ones You MUST Get Right!):

Director, Musical Director, Mask Builder, Lighting Director, Cast, especially three leads.

MY THOUGHTS:

This is an adventurous musical for an adventurous theater company and audience.  If your specialty is old fashioned musical theater (say Pre-Sondheim), this isn’t your thing.   With a story that asks hard questions about existence, and a score that occasionally pushes musical theater boundaries, the show needs a sure but flexible and somewhat experimentally-minded director and producer.  When the show was workshopped in Los Angeles with a pro cast, the audiences received it with joy and standing ovations (to the author’s slight surprise).  The strong religious aspects of the show (Buddhism, reincarnation, Christianity) did NOT act as a deterrent to their enjoyment, in fact, they seemed to welcome a show like this with open arms.   It is critical, however, that in performance, religious views NEVER be “lampooned”, or presented as cartoons.  Which is not to say that the comedy in the show (a HUGE percentage of the show) should not be very, very funny.  HUMAN, but funny.  The comedy comes out of the character’s situations and humanity, there are very few “gags”.

This show celebrates the idea of life, of being human, and of the idea of the most extreme form of “gender equality”.  Langoo’s shock at becoming a woman, and at what he does with his womanhood as she ages, is part of the joy and discovery of the show.   As I said, an adventure for the right company or producer.