Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Better than Disney...
1:15 pm edt
my dear friend Linda first contacted me to write a musical for the theater she was then a part owner of, I was flabbergasted.
Me? Write a script? With lyrics? All that dialogue and stage directions? To be produced? On stage? In front of a live audience?
Yeah, I admit, I was good with words. I still am (poetry, short stories, anovel about to be published).) But to write a script?
No. Not me. Back then, that was totally unfathomable.
Fifteen years and five musicals later – three of them
since produced by various theaters – we are offering them in both paperback and ebook versions for everybody’s
reading and singing pleasure. As a matter of fact, two have been published already: Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood and Noah's Rainbow . (Please check them out!) And now we've just released the script and music vocal sheets for Beauty and the Beast , the third in our McInerney and Uzelac "series". I must admit, with its charming, lyrical music and engaging story,
it is probably our most favorite collaboration. At least it is mine.
Beauty and the Beast was first produced by the Village Playhouse just outside of Atlanta, GA on, of all dates, my birthday in 2000. Back then
the popular Disney musical been running on Broadway since 1994 and everyone since then had been jumping onto the bandwagon.
Actually, ever since Gabrille-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve conceived of and wrote the original story in the late 1600s, Beauty and the Beast, with its basic premise of beauty conquering ugliness, has been – and still is – one of the major staple stories
told in nurseries, books, plays, and, movies. However, if you look closely, none were/are parallel to or true to the, um,
When Linda sent me a tape of the lyrics and music she had written for a previously produced
version for small children, I was, of course, intrigued and accepted the challenge. Since our first musical, We Three Kings (to be released this summer), was a huge box office success that past
holiday season, I was eager to once again stretch my newly-found script writing muscles and have my words come alive again
in front of the dazzling footlights. Stage fever and the promise of fame struck me again.
So, just as I did for
We Three Kings, I did a profound amount of research. What and whom I discovered
is, in itself, a beautiful story.
Madame Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont was a popular French novelist in
the mid-1700s. When her first marriage ended in a somewhat nasty divorce, she became for a time a governess for an English
family. Bedtime for the children consisted of her telling them stories. One of them was her embellished version of Barbot
de Villeneuve's timeless tale. Since that version of Beauty and the Beast was quite long and could not easily be told in one sitting, Leprince de Beaumont made a series out of it – much
like our soap operas and television epics (like Once Upon a Time) are now.
The story continued in cliff-hanging parts for nights on end. The children were so thrilled, they begged her to write them
all down. Which she did. It became in Europe an almost instant bestseller. (You can find a reprint of the original on either
Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble). It is this version that has stood the test of time – until certain "powers"
in the entertainment world decided to re-write it.
In 1946, the French filmmaker Jean Cocteau made a stunning black
and white movie starring Jean Marais as the Beast and Josette Day as Beauty. I had -- still have – a remastered VHS
of it. It was/is so brilliantly conceived and created, and so closely faithful to Leprince de Beaumont’s original story,
that it was to this film, as well as the original story, that I first turned. Using its basic elements – I couldn’t
use the live candelabra or the magical horse because of copyright issues – I wrapped the story around Linda's beautiful
music and delightfully poignant lyrics. And although I had ample opportunites to do so, I had decided not to see the Disney
musical until after our version had opened, lest it cloud my creative writing judgment.
I had the pleasure of
being in Atlanta for the premier of Beauty and the Beast. Standing in the back of the theater in what is known as "playwright's alley", I was able for the first three nights
running to watch my dialogue and Linda's music and lyrics come alive. I was also able to see and hear the audience's reactions.
The first two nights it was more than positive; on both nights, the curtain closed to standing ovations. The third night,
during intermission, I watched two excited teenage girls scamper up the aisle, laughter bubbling between them.
is my third time seeing this," one exclaimed to the other. "I can't get enough of it...It's better than Disney!"
Hearing that was, for me, a richly rewarding, memorable moment in a lifetime of writing. And now, Linda and I have
the honor of sharing our musical with you in the hopes that you, too, will agree with that young woman.
perhaps, in your living rooms and/or theaters our Belle and the Beast will come to life again.
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
1:15 pm edt
There have only been a few rare occasions in the past few years, when I have read a book that I did not like and found
it necessary to pan it. Especially if the author has been acclaimed by The New York
Sunday Times. I have come to realized that just because "they" are the NYTimes, they are not necessarily the end-all/be-all of literary criticism and analysis. As a matter of
fact, in more than a few instances, they have been wrong. This is one of them.
I heard Helen Oyeyemi being interviewed
on NPR three weeks ago about her latest novel, Boy, Snow, Bird, and I thought, "Wow. It's a fairy-tail conceit based upon the two stories about Snow White written by the Brothers
Grimm. Two of my favorite stories. I gotta read that." So, a quick email to my editors at www.authorexposure.com and, voila, quick as a dwarf's wink, the publishers sent me a link to the ebook. Which didn't work.
have been my first clue that this was going to be a doomed reading experience. My second was that – still dying to read
the novel – I had to spend nearly half of a credit I have with Barnes and Noble to download it to my Nook HD tablet.
Despite what "they" or anyone says, spending nearly $12 for an ephemeral read – and a not so good one at that
– is highway (or should I say "internet way"?) robbery. So, was this a great read as touted by the media?
Unfortunately, it was not.
Anyway, if you are a fan of Oyeyemi, as I am – was – then you just might
like her faintly weird attempt at modernizing the Snow White sagas. Don't get me wrong. It's not just that it's a bad read;
it's just not a really good one. Regardless of what the upper echelons of editors at "the" Times
Way your own magic wand and wend your way to www.authorexposure.com to read my review. And then decide for yourself.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
To Boldly Go...
1:55 pm edt
Although I am pretty much of a hermit these days, hardly ever seeing my neighbors for days at a time, I am fairly secure
in my now blissful solitude. Yet, I can't imagine what it would be like to be totally separated from any human contact for
years at a time. Especially if you have to struggle daily for your very existence. Like Tom Hanks' character marooned
for years on a deserted island in "The Castaway". Like Mark Watney in Andy Weir's first sci-fi action/adventure
novel, The Martian.
One of the first space explorers to walk on the red planet Mars, Watney is almost certain he will be the first
to die there. Left behind when his fellow crew members flee a massive dust storm, he is inadvertently stranded totally alone
with a heap of problems to solve to ensure his survival. It will take nearly two and a half earth years for NASA to send a
rescue mission and with only enough food, water, and oxygen to last only one Martian year, our hero Mark has to figure out
how to to survive until help finally arrives. A dire predicament, indeed. As I say, I just can't imagine...
of you know I am not a great fan of the action/adventure genre, although my closest friends know I like science fiction and
am a closet Trekker and an affirmed Trekkie (there is a difference). Hence, I was both a bit reluctant and intrigued when
my editors at www.authorexposure.com sent me an advanced reviewer's copy of Weir's work, suggesting that I "boldly venture into unknown reading territory..."
And so, I did. And, yes, after a few reservations while reading the first few pages, I was hooked, perched on the edge of
my seat wondering if Astronaut Watney will make it back home to earth.
When you get a chance, please beam yourself
over to www.authorexposure.com and read my review. You just might want to cheer heroic Mark on.
Monday, March 24, 2014
3:51 pm edt
Peculiar I'm peculiar
A number of years ago, while writing the libretto for Peter, the Wolf, and Red Riding Hood (...'cause she's not so little anymore), I penned a poem for a quirky (like me!) friend of mine entitled "I'm Peculiar" (the poem's name, not my friend's).
I had so much fun with it that I decided to include it in the musical as a duet sung by the characters (Peter's) Grandpa and
(Red's) Mother. My talented collaborator composed the most intriguing music for it, which we published along with the play’s
other songs and its full script on amazon.com. The lyrics of “I’m Peculiar” go something like this:
But what is most peculiar
Is that I do
But what is most compatible
Is that friends who
Are amazingly compatible, too!
It could not have been by chance
It had to be planned, this crazy romance
I don't think I will ever forget
How through circumstance we’ve met.
Or how peculiarly compatible
We'd quickly get
And that I would
But what is most peculiar
that I do find you
Too! ©2000-2014 L.F. Uzelac and J.J. McInerney
So, coincidentally enough,
years later, here I am wrapped up in reading the really weird Peculiar Children series of novels by a quirky but all so very
talented author named Ransom Riggs. And I thought, "Hey! this should be his theme song!" Because his characters
are children with odd, strange, and intriguing talents that make them different than other humans. He calls them "peculiars"
and, along with their ymbrymes, they have the most amazing – and frightening –adventures and tales to tell.
I just finished Hollow City , the second in the series and was just as enthralled with it as I was with the first, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children , which I reviewed here and for www.authorexposure.com last June. My latest Riggs review is posted there now.
If you're looking for a different, um, peculiarly interesting
read, then this is this novel and its prequel are for you!
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Here Come da Judge
4:16 pm edt
I am not a movie producer or director, but if I were and could cast anybody I choose in the role of Judge Joseph Force
Crater and his wife, I would select Leonardo deCaprio and Laura Linney. He was so good in J.
Edgar ... and she was wonderful as the lead in The Big C, they'd
be perfect together in the movie version of Ariel Lawhon's first novel, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress.
Heck, for a chance to work with Leo and Laura as we bring this talented author's words to the silver screen (do
they still call it that anymore?), I'd even help Lawhon write the script and offer my services as director. Of course, we'd
need two actresses to play the maid and the judge's mistress, but I think open auditions to find fresh, new faces would do
the trick. Although I do have Meryl Streep in mind for the older Mrs. Crater...
You can tell that I really, really,
really want The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress made into a movie. Why? Because this book, which is really not a mystery but a literary historical tour-de-force, is the
best mystery that I've read in a long time. Let me explain. It's about the disappearance of Judge Crater on the evening of
August 6, 1930. After dining with a friend in a second-rate New York restaurant, he got into a taxi cab and was never seen
nor heard from again. What happened to him was/is the biggest conundrum of the 20th Century, even topping the demise
of Jimmy Hoffa. Yet, Lawhon deftly, coolly, and cleanly knits together pieces of truth with chunks of imaginative fiction
and – et viola! – we have a wonderfully written, intriguing, Jazz-pizzazz-filled edge-of-your-seat satisfying
When you get the chance, hightail it over to www.authorexposure.com to read my five-star review while I see if I can't convince Leo and Meryl that these are their next Oscar-winning roles.
J. McInerney is an author, poet, and librettist.
currenty published works include a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of
children's musicals. Her titles include:
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her first novel.
June's books be purchased at amazon.com or through Barnes and Noble.
For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,