Saturday, October 1, 2016

"Frozen" Writer Robert Lopez Reimagines 1001 Nights for Kids Off-Broadway

1001 nights: A Love Story About Loving Stories is a new family musical adaptation of Arabian Nights and it looks like a LOT of fun. The Atlantic for Kids Season 2016-2017 opened on September 17 Off Broadway to rave reviews and features music and lyrics by Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award winner Robert Lopez (who co-wrote the music for Disney's Frozen). Lopez also co-wrote the book with Adam Koplan and Koplan directs.

Here's the description:
In this celebration of brainy imagination over brawn, a princess uses her wits to save a kingdom from an evil decree as she spins tale after tale for a narrow-minded king. Featuring genies, jesters, 40 thieves and other captivating characters, the princess’s cliffhanger stories keep the king - and audiences - on the edge of their seats. This playful adaptation of the Arabian Nights fairy tales is recommended for ages six and up. 
1001 Nights was first conceived in 1998 by Emmy, Grammy, Academy, and Tony Award winner Robert Lopez (Avenue Q, The Book of Mormon, Frozen) and Adam Koplan, artistic director of Flying Carpet Theatre Company. This newly reimagined production features early songs by Lopez and is directed by Koplan with puppet direction by Jon Ludwig, artistic director of the Center for Puppetry Arts. All the puppets were designed by the Center’s resident puppet builder Jason von Hinezmeyer and built by the talented crew in the Center’s puppet building shop.

Robert Lopez originally wrote the music for 1001 Nights at age 23, for his first show out of college, staged by The Flying Carpet Theater Company. For this new production, Lopez wrote an additional new song to expand the show.

A very complimentary and fun review in the New York Times gives you an idea of the stories covered and the approach to, what are initially very scary ideas (ie a man in power killing his new wives every night):
Mr. Koplan has nimbly directed the 70-minute production, which frames the grim premise in a nonscary way: Sherry, a contemporary girl played by the spirited Caitlin Donohue, transforms herself into Scheherazade as she realtes the adventure to her stuffed animals. The toys also morph - into big fuzzy puppets that jmight have sneaked out of "Avenue Q". (They're just as smart-alecky, but G-rated.) The show also uses clever hand puppets - Matt Acheson is credited for puppet direction - to ecplain the king's vow to wed every day and put each bride to death within 24 hours: His first wife betrayed him. 
Portrayed by PJ Adzima, who may remind you of a younger Neil Patrick Harris, this monarch is fundamentally a big baby. (Aren't all tyrants?) He holds his red blankie as Scheherazade beguiles him with "The Fisherman and the Genie," "Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves" and the lesser-known romance of Prince Budur and Princess Qamar. The king and Scheherazade enact tales, along with the puppets and the Atlantic's terrific young ensemble. I's hard to say what's funnier: the many rhyming jokes or the stage business, which includes an "Open Sesame," "Shut Sesame" routine that's like "Who's On First" in ancient Arabia.
You can read the rest of the review HERE.

Here's a sneak peek of the current show, from behind the scenes with the writers of the show explaining different aspects... to the puppet performers:
We like the part about the power of stories, what they mean to us and how they change us, along with the idea of empowerment through words. It's such great material to introduce kids to, we wonder why we're not swimming in productions of Arabian Nights for kids. (There are a couple that come into circulation every few years, often puppets but also live stage shows to live-puppet hybrids, but they tend to be smaller companies and fairly local, which is a shame as the artistry in design, acting, music and puppeteering seems, across the board, to be enchanting. You can get a glimpse at a lovely one HERE.)

Here's the original trailer which shows more of the actual show and gives you an idea of the writing and a little of the music as well:
If this show travels, by flying carpet or not, there's a few children we'd be very happy to take to see this!

1001 Nights: A Love Story About Loving Stories, plays through October 16, 2016 at the Linda Gross Theater in Chelsea, NY.

Note: Some of these images were from earlier productions of Lopez's 1001 Nights but we thought they represented the show well at a glance, so included them.

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