Vince Vawter sent me his Newberry Honor novel PAPERBOY asking if I thought it could make a stage musical.As soon as I read it I loved the unique characters and story, set in Memphis in 1959, and began writing songs as Vince began adapting his novel scene by scene.Recently we traveled to St. Simons Island, GA, for our first presentation of the material before a welcoming audience.I’ll let Vince take it from here.Many thanks, my friend!
The 'Pump Boy' and the 'Paperboy' Show Their Stuff
For more than a year, Jim Wann and I have been hard at work on a show that we hope one day will emerge for everyone to enjoy. We gave a special group a sneak peek this week and the reaction excited both of us.
Jim Wann, if you don’t know the name already, created and performed in the Tony-nominated musical Pump Boys and Dinettes that ran on Broadway for almost two years. Jim has created other popular musicals over the years and still performs up and down the East Coast. He is an outstanding singer and guitarist, but songwriting is his passion. He is unleashing that passion on Paperboy, A New Musical.
Jim and I have been working together long distance these many months, but we decided it was time to introduce at least the first act to an audience. Because the students at Frederica Academy in Saint Simon’s Island, GA, had read my book and seemed to be invested in it when I spoke there in 2016, we chose them for a “focus group” audience. They did not disappoint.
I set up a few scenes in the musical with dialogue and then Jim sang and played guitar on a half-dozen or so of his songs from Act I. It was an experience I will never forget – unveiling a new and unique telling of Paperboy in music and lyrics. We asked the students for feedback at the end of the session that went by far too quickly. They shared their feelings, which gave us confidence that this is a story that can be told in a musical setting.
One of Jim’s original songs, Dancing With Our Hands, is written for a deaf character in the book. Jim’s rendition turned into a bit of spontaneous theater when a faculty member who knows American Sign Language volunteered to “sign” the song as he performed it. We have in mind that characters will sign this song on stage as part of the performance. It was beautiful to see and hear.
My sincere thanks to the administration, faculty and students at Frederica Academy for their time and attention.
Where do we go from here? Jim will continue to teach me about musical theater and I will continue to teach him about stuttering. We will write and polish, and just as with the novel, we’ll see where this paperboy’s route takes us.