Darkness. Floods. Extreme heat and cold. By now, we’d have wagered that the folks at ReVision Theatre Company had experienced every Biblical plague short of the Rain of Frogs, in their quest to make Asbury Park’s Carousel House a viable place for musical entertainments. But imagine our surprise, when on a post-Irene stroll to the boardwalk we found the pavement out front of that quirky rococo roundhouse festooned with — not frogs, but fish.
We’re no ichthyologist — although we play one on TV — but we’d venture a guess that these finny fauna, their razor-tooth carcasses picked clean by scavenging seabirds, were very far from home (ditto the Costco-size bottle of Cocoa Butter, seemingly deposited here from somewhere east of 1971).
That fish-out-of-water imagery actually works pretty well when contemplating the third and latest offering of the ReVision summer season at the Carousel — the East Coast premiere of The Breakup Notebook: The Lesbian Musical. A relatively little known (but highly acclaimed) item about a recently dumped thirtysomething — and her uneasy re-immersion into the churning waters of the LA lesbian dating scene — the 2005 show by Lori Scarlett, David Manning and Patricia Cotter (adapted from Cotter’s own nonmusical play of the same name) lands with a Don Martin SPLADAP sound effect on the doorstep of the Carousel from far-off California, bringing with it a Tony-lauded, Hollywood-legendary producer and director in the bargain.
A top executive of The Walt Disney Company for more than a decade (his own documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty is a fine chronicle of the Disney brand’s toon revival during his tenure as president of Feature Animation) and a world champion bridge player, Peter Schneider also oversaw the wildly successful House of Mouse transition to Broadway player, via such stage sensations as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Post-Disney, the independent theatrical producer has been involved with New York and London hits like Sister Act and the Elton John-Tim Rice Aida — as well as a little show called The Breakup Notebook, for which he oversaw a well-received staging in San Diego.
So let’s review: the man who helped broker the game-changing deal between Disney and Pixar; who shepherded such latterday classics as Beauty, The Little Mermaid and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to the screen; who was present at the creation of the modern Broadway era…is very happy to be working in Asbury Park, taking a spin on the ever-quirky Carousel with the intrepid ReVisionaries of the city’s resident professional troupe.
He won’t be going it alone, of course. Beth Malone stars here as Helen, recently pink-slipped from what she thought was a cozy and committed relationship — who, with the encouragement of her gay guyfriend Bob and her butch buds Joanie and Monica, dives into an alien world of internet dating services, rebounders, twelve-steppers, dominatrixes and other 21st century signifiers. She’s joined in the nine-woman, one-man cast by Briana Davis, Jenn Furman, Melissa Hammans, Christine Lakin, Ariel Tyler Page, Caitlin Lee Reid, Jamison Stern, Natalie Wachen, and Nadine Zahr — most of whom appear in multiple roles.
While we would have loved to talk cartoons and Hollywood and big-time Broadway (and maybe even bridge) with this modern master of art and entertainment — personally, we think both Disney’s screen and stage brands have gone to the dogs since his departure — upperWETside played it strictly by the Notebook in our conversation with Peter Schneider. Flip the pixelated page to continue.
BREAKUP NOTEBOOK author Patricia Cotter and director Peter Schneider, happy together during NYC rehearsals for the production opening September 9 in Asbury Park.
upperWETside: Thanks for taking time out from rehearsals, Peter. I have to say this is quite a surprise; having a person of your stage and screen credentials working on a project at our dearly beloved and seldom predictable frontier playhouse off the boardwalk.
PETER SCHNEIDER: I’m very happy to be bringing it there; very happy in how it’s coming together. I’m aware of the challenges that ReVision has faced in that funky old building, as far as rain, sound, heat, power — but one of the things that attracts me to the project is that it’s about community.
The renewed presence of legitimate theater turned 42nd Street around in Manhattan, and what ReVision is doing in Asbury Park is part of an extraordinary story of community development.
The folks at ReVision have been quick to point out that this “Lesbian Musical” is a musical for everybody; not just for lesbians — but as opposed to a familiar property like XANADU or SPRING AWAKENING, do you think this one really needs to be sold to an audience for whom it’s a largely unknown quantity, kind of a niche item?
Calling it a Lesbian show, it’s not as simple as all that. You try and sell it, not in terms of its being a gay and lesbian thing, but its being an experience that all of us have in common.
We all have that moment in our lives when we get dumped, fired, left behind…it’s a universal story, in this case about people who happen to be lesbians. It’s about how hysterically crazy you get when you break up with someone…and how you manage to get on with your life.
You’ve had experience with the show previously of course, and given the unique features of the Carousel, as well as the ongoing input of Patricia Cotter, I’m wondering how this production might differ from past stagings.
We’ve added three new songs since the last time it was produced…and Patricia’s been great throughout the entire process. On my website for Peter Schneider Productions, you’ll see some blog postings from her that are fun and illuminating. I develop shows — that’s what I do — and when this show opens in Asbury Park the audience will be seeing a really funny, really sweet show that’s evolved into something that’s going to work very well in its surroundings. You’re not going to be seeing a scaled-down version of a Broadway show.
I’ve worked four times previously with Beth, who’s just spectacularly talented, and we definitely share something that will make this production something special. My real joy has been in working with these actors; bringing it all to life.
With a lot of laughs, we trust — maybe some sentimental moments as well?
Well, peeing on your ex-girlfriend’s laundry is certainly a funny moment — the show treats its subject in a funny, but emotionally honest, rocky kind of way. It’s not serious; not a lecture. More like a journey of discovery, with some real joy, and laughs and great music.
THE BREAKUP NOTEBOOK breaks into previews on Thursday, September 8; opens September 9 (with an after party available to ticketholders) and continues through September 25 with performances at 8pm Wednesdays through Saturdays, and 7pm Sundays. Tickets range from $18 to $52, and can be reserved right here.