Walt Disney Productions' classic 1963 movie musical "Summer Magic" is being re-imagined as a new stage production in Morristown, Tennessee.
Like the movie and the book on which it is based, "Mother Carey's Chickens" by Kate Douglas Wiggin, the musical tells the story of a widow and her children who are allowed to live temporarily in a rundown mansion in exchange for fixing it up. Along the way, romance blossoms between the woman's daughter and the mansion's owner. The film starred Hayley Mills, Burl Ives and Dorothy McGuire.
Kathy Garver, who is best known for her role as Cissy in the classic CBS sitcom "Family Affair," stars as the matriarch, Margaret Carey, who was played in the movie by McGuire.
"It's gratifying to be part of something new and so positive," Garver said. "This is such a wonderful, breezy and uplifting musical. I love the characters and the songs."
The stage production was conceived and written by Tennessee-based writer and director Jerry Maloy, with the approval of Walt Disney Productions and Richard Sherman, who composed the songs for the movie, with his late brother Robert.
"I've always loved the movie since I was 9 years old and talked my mom into driving me 50 miles to see it in Knoxville, and sat through it twice," Maloy said. "It's a really nice story, full of positive thinking. It teaches you to live for the moment and, as Richard Sherman told me, 'throw the negative out the window.'"
Through mutual acquaintances, Maloy was able to persuade Sherman to read his script. The songwriter, who is most famous for co-writing the songs for "Mary Poppins," liked Maloy's script so much that he suggested just minor changes.
"He told me he could see I had a love for human nature, and that is what he had tried to portray his whole life through songwriting," Maloy said. "He was 95 percent happy with what I had written, but he offered some advice that he got from Walt Disney. 'You've got to prune; you've got to get rid of anything that is absolutely unnecessary to the story.'"
Maloy's stage adaptation of "Summer Magic" includes all of the original songs from the movie, as well as three others that were composed by The Sherman Brothers for other Disney films: "Are We Dancing" from "The Happiest Millionaire"; "About Time" and "The Happiest Girl Alive" from "The One and Only Genuine Original Family Band"; and "Strummin' Song" from "The Horsemasters."
Sherman and several Disney studio executives are expected to fly to Morristown this weekend, to attend a performance of "Summer Magic," along with actor Eddie Hodges, who played Gilly in the movie. For Maloy, having Sherman in the audience is a dream come true.
"This is the man that wrote the first record I ever owned, 'Let's Get Together,' which I played till everyone around me was sick of it," Maloy laughed. "To have him here, along with Eddie Hodges, is absolutely thrilling."
"Summer Magic" is a co-production of the Newport Theatre Guild and Morristown Theatre Guild, with performances at the William H. Inman Humanities Building Theatre at Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tennessee. Performances are scheduled June 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. with a Q&A both nights at 7:00 p.m. with Richard Sherman and other special guests. A matinee performance will take place on June 24 at 2:30. For ticket information, visit www.morristowntheatreguild.com or call 423-586-9260.