In speaking of final performances, tomorrow with be the final day to catch Arnie the Doughnut, a deliciously zany family musical with a book by Frances Limoncelli and music and lyrics by George Howe, based on the story by Laurie Keller. I was first introduced to these writers' work with their musical The Emperor's Groovy New Clothes, and Arnie, the tale of a doughnut and its new bakery owner, promises to be fun fare for all. The final two performances will be tomorrow, Saturday, July 21st at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. If you need any more convincing, read on to learn more about the show.
Frances Limoncelli and George Howe: A silly, tuneful, delicious family musical that strives to redefine human/doughnut relations.
Me: You guys have collaborated on a couple of projects. How did your writing partnership begin?
Frances: George and I met in January of 1986 when I was a freshman in college and playing Mame in a production of the same name. I had 16 lightning fast costume changes and no dresser. George had just dropped out of school and was hanging around watching rehearsal. Everyone else I knew was already in the show and busy, so I walked out into the seats during our tech and asked him to be my dresser. He came backstage, I took off my clothes, and the rest is history. I think I said something like “Get used to these, you’re going to see a lot of them.” That what he claims, anyway.
When I got out of school I started doing summer stock at the same place George did – the infamous Weston Playhouse in Vermont, the one that we held the benefit for last fall. It was there that we started occasionally writing and/or performing in sketches or with parody lyrics to songs for their after-hours cabaret. Highlights include Bovinian Rhapsody, Vermont-themed opera parodies like Madame Buttermilk and The Magic Fudge, and a series of musical take-offs starring George’s version of Ethel Merman: The Sound of Merman, The Little Merman, and Ethel Merman is Peter Pan.
George and I both moved to NY (Brooklyn, actually) after I graduated college. After a year I moved to Chicago and he followed three months later. My boyfriend at the time used to say to me, “I guess it’s love you, love George.” True.
Me: What has the process been like bringing the show from Chicago to New York?
Frances and George: We had a great experience developing Arnie in Chicago for the theatre that commissioned it: Lifeline Theatre, for whom we have written many shows. We struggled for weeks trying to decide how much of the Chicago production could transfer to the festival. When we finally accepted the fact that it was just too expensive and complicated to transfer anything, we started anew in New York, and we’re really happy with that decision. It’s been so exciting to return to New York, where our theatre careers began and where we have our roots. It’s a sort of homecoming. And it has reunited us with so many of our New York theatre industry friends.
Me: What is your approach for writing a show that is good for both an adult and child audience?
Frances and George: That’s easy – we write what we like. Maybe that makes us 8 year olds on the inside, but that’s what we do. We don’t believe in talking down to kids. We find no difference in writing for children than for adults. Either way we just write what makes us laugh, or what touches us. That’s why grownups are always surprised how much they enjoy our family shows – they assume that it’ll be dumbed down or over simplified. We find that our material works on many levels so that a 4 year old can be entranced by color, sound, and silliness, while a 10 year old gets the character conflict and loves the catchy tunes, and the adults appreciate how sophisticated the music is and the wit of the script. They also pick up on all the references we have sprinkled throughout.
Me: What are you most looking forward to about NYMF?
Frances and George: We are thrilled for our work to be seen by New York theatre audiences and by industry leaders who could give the show a life in the future. We would love for Arnie the Doughnut to be seen by families all over the world. And we hope that, as a writing team, we get a career boost that will open doors for us as a writing team.