Manhattan School of Music Musical Theatre To Present World Premiere Of PAPERBOY

The new musical is based on the award-winning novel by Vince Vawter.

By: Mar. 10, 2023
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Manhattan School of Music Musical Theatre To Present World Premiere Of PAPERBOY

Manhattan School of Music's Musical Theatre Division will present the World Premiere of Paperboy, a new musical based on the award-winning novel by Vince Vawter.

The novel, which sold more than a quarter million copies and won the prestigious Newbery Honor Award, is based on Mr. Vawter's real-life experience growing up in the 1950s as a person who stutters. The book has been translated into 17 languages, but the 18th translation - into the language of musical theater - might just be its most universal expression.

Paperboy features a score by Jim Wann and David Shenton, with arrangements and orchestrations by Mr. Shenton. Lyrics are by Mr. Wann, who earned Tony and Drama Desk nominations for the Broadway musical Pump Boys and Dinettes. Mr. Shenton has written pieces for symphonies to jazz violin concertos, as well as ballet and film scores.

Emily Loesser and Don Stephenson have adapted the book for the stage, along with Mr. Vawter. Mr. Stephenson will direct the production.

Ms. Loesser is the daughter of Broadway legends Frank Loesser and Jo Sullivan Loesser. An acclaimed Broadway performer (By Jeeves, Titanic, Yiddle with a Fiddle, The Sound of Music), she is also a licensed and practicing speech-language pathologist in New York City, which drew her to this material. She co-wrote the book with her husband Don Stephenson, whose own Broadway appearances include Trouble in Mind, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, By Jeeves, The Producers, Parade, and Titanic.

Mr. Stephenson's directing credits include productions at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Alley Theatre, Goodspeed Opera House, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, and Paper Mill Playhouse. Most recently, he directed a staged reading of Sandy Rustin's new play The Suffragette's Murder for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts New Play Summit.

MSM Dean of Musical Theatre Liza Gennaro will serve as choreographer; her numerous credits include the revivals of The Most Happy Fella, Once Upon a Mattress starring Sarah Jessica Parker, and Gypsy starring Betty Buckley, among many others.

The production's cast and orchestra will be made up entirely of current students from Manhattan School of Music. The creative team includes Michael Schweikardt (set design), Fan Zhang (costumes), Shawn Kaufman (lighting), Scott Stauffer (sound), Shawn Duan (projections), Loryn Pretorius (wigs and make-up), and Shayla Gordon (dramaturg). Miles Plant will serve as Music Director.

Over the past two years, Paperboy has had three developmental workshops in the MSM Musical Theatre Lab Series, which was created to offer students the opportunity to work in musicals in development. Director Stephenson is excited by how the musical theatre students at MSM have grasped their roles: "The students' ability to act with pathos and humor, to sing with gusto and emotion, to dance with abandon and precision, is everything needed to do this musical and has made the process smooth and easy."

Set in 1950s Memphis, Paperboy tells the story of an 11-year-old boy who stutters, and how his life is transformed one summer when he takes over a friend's paper route.

The score of more than twenty original songs is rooted in Memphis Blues and Rockabilly, with a dash of Broadway. The diverse characters, young and adult, have journeys that intertwine with Paperboy's, bending through crises towards loyalty, justice, and love. "The students will show the theater community that this is a story worthy of exposure on stage," Mr. Stephenson said.

Many people who stutter can sing fluently, making this story well-suited to the musical stage. Mr. Wann agrees, adding: "Paperboy is a natural for musical storytelling. Finding your voice, being heard - that's universal."

Paperboy will run for four performances only: Friday, March 24 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, March 25 matinee at 2 pm; Saturday, March 25 evening performance at 7:30 pm; and Sunday, March 26 matinee at 2 pm.

Performances will take place at Manhattan School of Music's Neidorff-Karpati Hall (130 Claremont Avenue). The wearing of masks is optional inside MSM performance halls. Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for seniors and non-MSM students; they may be purchased online (