BWW Interviews: Mega-Producer Nancy Nagel Gibbs on PETER AND THE STARCATCHER's National Launch, Denver Roots and More!
Nancy, thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me and BroadwayWorld today. Now, you are from Colorado?
Yes, I grew up in Southeast Denver.
Wonderful. Is there a hidden gem that always brings you back when you come here?
Well, I still have family here and, so, basically, what happens is anytime I have a show that we general manage that comes to Denver, I come to Denver, I visit my family, I hang out at the Denver Center, and see how the show goes. And, all of them have worked wonderfully here. We've done Wicked many times, and Next to Normal, and Spelling Bee, and Bring it On, and Traces, and all kinds of things, so I've been here a lot. So that's really what brings me here. And, I'm going to start sending them some more shows.
Well, good. We hope so. We love them every time. What are your thoughts of this national tour?
Thrilled that we have a tour of Peter. So few plays tour these days, that we're delighted that we were able to put together, it's about a 36-week tour. We start here, we're go to Texas, we're doing the West Coast this year, then we move into the rest of the country next year so we're very, very thrilled that we can take this play in the way that our Tony Award-winning team did it all over the country. So we're thrilled.
I'm so glad that it's being shared with the nation, because it's such an exceptional experience. Can you talk to me a little bit about Peter and the StarCatcher, the story behind it?
Sure. The story is based on a book that Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, which they have daughters, one of the daughters when they were at Disney World said, "How did Peter Pan meet Captain Hook?" So, Ridley and Dave are old friends, and they starting emailing each other ideas. And, they began to write a book that's pitched to middle schoolers about how Peter Pan met Captain Hook. And, actually how both of them got their names. Neither of them have those names in the beginning of our play. And, so they worked on this, Disney's Hyperion published it, that's Disney's publication arm, and Tom Schumacher, who is the head of the Disney theatrical division said, "I'm going to commission this into a musical."
So, he talked to Roger Rees who was at running Williamstown at the time, and Roger had a young director there, Alex Timbers, who was working on another piece. They worked with some interns, they just threw around some ideas, they said, "We really need to get a book writer in who can really morph this book." So, Rick Elice came on board, Disney suggested they do a page to stage at La Jolla, and at La Jolla they decided it wasn't a musical, it was really a play. So, they went from a larger company to a smaller one. There are 12 actors, 2 musicians, feels like a musical, but it's really these 2 musicians. The percussion acts almost as a soundtrack for the show, and there's a lot of underscoring with three songs.
It's a play with music?
Correct. Exactly. So that means play people like it, and musical people like it.
Excellent! Best of both worlds. What do you hope audiences take from this award-winning production?
I think they get back in touch with why they love legitimate theatre. That's really why we fell in love with it. It's like, "Oh, yes. This is why I got into theatre." I was very involved with creative dramatics when I was in graduate school. And, this feels like this. It's totally structured. It's not improvised at all. This show is exactly the same every night. Except for that interaction between audience, and how the audience laughs, and where they laugh, and all of that. But, it feels like these actors have created it, and are creating it in front of you. That illusion of the first time is what we love about the theatre. When we go to the movies, we know that they're not doing it. We know that they've done it, it's in the can, and we're going to see it, and it's going to be exactly the same every time. It's quite wonderful. It's that "thing" about why we go to the theatre in the first place.
In this day and age of movie musicals and technical super effects works everywhere you look on Broadway, what sets Peter and the Star Catcher apart from the others?