It's Time For THE NEXT FAIRY TALE
Christopher Maikish and Patrick Gomez as The Princes
Photo credit: Ronn Jones
Most fairy tales follow some version of the 'prince meets princess / prince rescues princess / prince loses princess / prince gets princess back and they all live happily ever after' story. But what if the prince isn't rescuing a princess, but another prince?
Move over Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, there's a new fairy tale in town. And this one will have everyone in the kingdom in a tizzy. It's The Next Fairy Tale, a brand new musical by Brian Pugach opening at Celebration Theatre on March 11th.
Brian, along with two of his leading actors, Christopher Maikish who plays Copernicus, the Prince of Sunshine, and Rachel Genevieve, who plays Hazel, his woefully inept Fairy Godmother, joined me between rehearsals to talk about his new take on the traditional fairy tale.
Why did you decide to write The Next Fairy Tale?
Brian: I have this philosophy that the reason we think the way we think about relationships is because of fairy tales. They play a big part in forming our opinions because we grow up with them and they represent what a perfect relationship looks like. The intention was to write the first fairy tale that wasn't between a prince and a princess and make that okay.
Rachel: I think that also plays into Hazel too because our ideal of the heroine is this beautiful, put together, perfect woman. And Hazel is so far from perfect. She's a failed fairy godmother with self esteem issues who's had her wand impounded.
Is Hazel the main character in your story?
Brian: The original intention was to have a fairy tale with two princes and the fairy godmother was an afterthought. As the story became more specific, it really became Hazel's story. It's still about Copernicus' quest but now it's not only a story about two princes but the reaction of the fairy tale world to them and what happens after the love story. Minerva, as the leader of the fairy godmothers, feels strongly that a fairy tale cannot happen between two princes so she becomes the witch over the course of our show and she takes it upon herself to foil Hazel.
What kind of an effect does that have on Hazel?
Rachel: Hazel approaches everything with such sincerity and truth, and I think that her reaction to the two princes is really interesting because she doesn't have an instinctual judgment about it right away.
Christopher: One of the things my character, Copernicus, and Hazel have in common is that they come from the perspective of 'the other' to begin with, so they don't necessarily have the same gut reactions as the rest of the characters who have conformed to the way things have always been. It takes them longer to draw their own conclusions.
Have you based the characters on anyone specific, or did they come out of your head?
Brian: Hazel is a combination of two of my favorite characters from fantasy literature - Egwene from Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time and Lirael from Garth Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy, I'm obsessed with those books. Lirael can't do magic, which is incredibly depressing for her because she's living in a society of women who can tell the future.
Rachel: When I've been asked in what ways I am similar to Hazel, some of her most prominent character attributes come to mind. She's this insecure, accident prone person who lacks confidence. Growing up in theatre and doing a lot of ingénue roles you are always trying to be perfect and graceful and together, and it's kind of nice that I can be a little bit more of myself in this. I've always been gawky and awkward and tall, with long limbs I can't control, so it's fun that I can incorporate that into her character.
And what about Copernicus?
Brian: Copernicus is really based on me and my story. He is the ideal fairy tale character living in this perfect story book world, and we would never expect him to admit that there was anything wrong in it. He's oblivious to the fact that people don't want two princes together so when it happens his whole reality comes crashing down.
Is there a message in the musical?
Brian: It's a story about two friends who grow up together. They make each other strong enough to fight for their beliefs, and I think that it's funny because they seem so young at the beginning. She's a klutz and he's the Prince of Sunshine and we kind of laugh at both of them. By the end, they become the two most real characters in the story.
Rachel: Christopher has an amazing tag line for the show that says it all, "Love Conquers Lore."
Christopher: I think it's an incredible story. I was involved in a workshop of the show about a year ago and when auditions came around for this production, I knew I had to do the show.
What made you feel that strongly about it?
Christopher: Two things - aside from the show being funny and entertaining, Brian is an absolute font of knowledge about fairy tale lore. He's really crafted a sophisticated book that is detailed and interesting. It's a beautiful world to play in. And I get to play this role that for me is a deeply intense personal experience. I identify with many aspects of the character, and I feel a responsibility to it as well, with this being the first fairy tale of a prince loving a prince. I feel like I've been given an opportunity to publicly present my understanding of what it means to be in a relationship with another man, to have to stand up for it and yourself, and to grow up, in terms of your identity. It's an incredibly parallel experience for me as a person.
Tell me about the story.
Brian: Every hundred years, the magic mirror chooses which hero's quest will become the next fairy tale. A Fairy Godmother must be assigned to the hero, but when the mirror chooses Copernicus, a prince who plans to rescue a fellow prince rather than a princess, the Godmothers' leader Minerva decides to foil the quest. She assigns him Hazel, the clumsiest Godmother available. Copernicus and Hazel set out to create a new kind of fairy tale, not knowing Minerva is gathering forces to stop them.
What style of music have you written for the show?
Brian: I like to call it Disney with an edge. We're using a piano and drums and our musical director, Wayne Moore, has done some great vocal arrangements. I'm especially inspired by the work of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, and Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens.
What have you learned about yourself as a writer during this experience?
Brian: I learned quickly that you have to let other people touch your story and let other people be a part of the telling of it.
I like your choice of words - allowing people to touch your story.
Brian: Having amazing actors who make inspired choices in rehearsal, and a director like Michael Shepperd who pushes me in a good way, has helped shape so much of the story. The Next Fairy Tale is a result of hundreds of people's generous input. Celebration has never done a show like this before. It's risky and it's also the most expensive show they've ever done.
Really - what makes it so expensive?
Brian: Because it's a fairy tale and we have all this magic in it. I mean, there's a dragon and witches and magic spells and fairy tale ball gowns. It's fabulous!
Who is the audience for the show?
Brian: I really tried to make it open to everyone. I figured if I write a really fun musical the audience can't help but like it, whether it has a gay love story or not. And it's not just for people who are gay friendly. I hope it will be enjoyable for people who don't agree with the gay marriage issue because there are moments you can't help but like because it's a musical.
Christopher: Brian plays with language so well in the show. He's developed this whole fairy tale lingo so it's appropriate for children and adults too. The adults will get the double entendre references and the kids will just think it's really cute.
Brian: I thought about making a glossary just for fun. The Next Fairy Tale lives in a world with its own lingo, and it's often used to mask some of the more adult humor to keep the show open to all ages.
What do you want the audience to take away from the show?
Brian: In the end, it's about a world that grows up. The people in this fairy tale have never been exposed to this kind of a story and they all have to come to terms with it. You know that the princes will probably end up together and there'll be a happily ever after but the true ending of the show for me is how the story changes everyone else in the fairy tale world.
Brian Pugach's The Next Fairy Tale, directed by Michael A. Shepperd and produced by John Michael Beck, opens March 11th at Celebration Theatre. Music direction and vocal arrangements are by Wayne Moore and choreography by Jeffrey Polk.
Featuring (*Members of Actors' Equity): Rachel Genevieve*, Christopher Maikish*, Gina Torrecilla*, Kendra Munger*, Patrick Gomez, Charls Sedgwick Hall*, Stephanie Fredricks*, Nell Teare*, Vash Boddie and Ben Caron*