March 9, 2012

You Lucky Duck


A Q&A With The Creative Team Behind The Quacky New Musical, Lucky Duck, Coming To The New Victory Theater March 16-25

By Meghan Gearino


[EDITOR'S NOTE: Be sure to read to the end for a chance to win a family four-pack of tickets to the show!]

Who
doesn’t love a feel-good success story set to music? With fantastic music,
sassy choreography and great themes for children (especially those ages 4-8) to
soak up, the New Victory Theater’s new production, Lucky Duck is sure to wow. — 

But
a great show must come from somewhere, and the creative team behind this quirky
production is one of best. With music composed by Tony Award and Grammy winner
Henry Krieger, best known for The Tap
Dance Kid
, Side Show and let’s
not forget his genre-leaping hit, Dreamgirls.
Lyrics and book were written by Bill Russell, who frequently works alongside
Krieger to create popular Broadway works. Russell collaborated with Krieger on Side Show and has also written book and
lyrics for Pageant and Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens. The book for Lucky Duck was also penned by Jeffrey
Hatcher alongside Russell. Hatcher is successful in his own right, having
written the play (and screenplay!) for Compleat
Female Stage Beauty
—the film version shortened to simply Stage Beauty, starring Claire Danes and
Billy Crudup. Hatcher also wrote the screenplays for Tuesdays with Morrie and Casanova.

Eager
to know more, New York Family magazine
quizzed this dynamic trio to dig deep into their creative process, how vegetarianism
takes center stage and why Lucky Duck
is a boon for kids and parents alike.

Lucky Duck brims with themes of confidence in
one’s self and acceptance–why did you feel these messages were so important to
share with children?

Jeffery
Hatcher (JH):
The pressure to conform, to fit in [and] to be perfect is
worse now than any [other] time I can recall. Any time we have a chance to
affirm the worth and dignity of an individual—especially kids—we should take
it. 

Bill Russell (BR): I grew up gay in South
Dakota/Wyoming—cowboy country. I always felt like the biggest freak in the
world—one reason I guess I’m always attracted to writing about outcasts, Side Show being a prime example.
Bullying is in the news a lot lately, but it’s always existed and I’m happy to
explore themes of confidence and self-acceptance. 

Henry Krieger (HK): The process of the
programming of our minds for better or for worse begins early. Why not make it
positive in nature at the beginning through kind acts and also through theater?

Leaving the small town for the bright lights of New York
City
is a tale as old as time. What
inspired you to turn this into a musical for children?

BR: I remembered the Little
Golden Book version of The Ugly Duckling,
which was a favorite as a child. Serena wanting to leave the barnyard for New Duck City is my story— wanting to
leave South Dakota for New York.

HK: I grew up in a northern
suburb and couldn’t wait to live in a place where restaurants were open 24
hours a day, where there was live theater and the rules were different. New Duck City, here we come.

Vegetarianism also plays a big part in the show. Are you all
vegetarians or animal rights activists?

JH: I’m eating
duck as we speak! 

BR: I’m not a vegetarian or
animal rights activist. We needed to explain why the kingdom is ruled by
poultry and the carnivores are a distinct minority. So we came up with Mad Dog
Disease having wiped out most of the carnivores and the poultry making
vegetarianism the law of the land (for self-protection).

HK: I am an animal lover and
believer in animal rights. I used to be a vegetarian and may be one again
someday, but have not been assiduous in my commitment for awhile now.

What is the creative process like when merging both music
and lyrics?

BR: Henry prefers to work
from a lyric. So that’s how we start. I will usually bring him a fragment of a
song—a verse and chorus, sometimes a whole lyric. He sits at the piano without
having read what I’ve written, looks up at it and starts playing. I’d say about
70% of the time, what comes out of his fingers in those early moments define
what the song will be. As we work on it, he might then write a new musical
section to which I’ll set a lyric.

It’s unique to have animal characters as opposed to humans.
What inspired this artistic decision? 

BR: The original story is
about a duck. And initially we conceived the project as an animated film. 

HK: I think that animals
can impart a lot of wisdom to their human companions if the humans are
listening. This is my third anthropomorphic musical.

JH: If we could
have hired animals instead of humans, we would, but equity squawked. 

Lucky Duck is a revised version of your original
production Everything’s Ducky. How has it been refreshed?

BR: The history of this
project is long and involved. It has grown and changed over many productions.
This version is the latest.

JH:
We always thought of Lucky Duck as a “for all ages” production, but
almost from the start, people said to us, “You know, this is a great show, but
given the subject matter and the fairy tale aspects, it could be aimed
specifically at kids.” The only snag was that there were the occasional adult
jokes in the script. It was never an NC-17 show, but when we got down to it, we
found that we didn’t lose anything essential to the story. When you aim for
kids, you get everybody else, too, because kids can’t drive.

You worked together previously on Side Show and also
on Kept. What is the magic to your success as collaborators?

BR: I’m Henry’s biggest fan!
 I wanted to write with him ever since I first saw Dreamgirls. And I am the happiest lyricist in the world to have
written four musicals with him. 

HK: The process itself is
the chemistry and vision and work habits of two people with a common artistic
goal. Collaboration is an art form in its own right. Bill Russell is a gifted
poet and a beautiful friend to all who know him. He makes it easy!

How does writing the book for a musical differ from writing
screenplays?

JH: Actually,
writing a book musical is not unlike writing a screenplay. Writing a straight
play is a singular and (for the most part) solitary effort. Musicals and movies
are group efforts and collaborative in nature. The big difference? In a
screenplay, I can type “CUT TO: THE SURFACE OF THE MOON.” In a musical, I type
“As we transition to the moon surface, dozens of stagehands move a bunch of set
pieces in the dark, while the underscoring plays on and on until everything is
finally in place. We hope.”

Lucky Duck is playing at 209 West 42nd Street from March 16-25. Tickets begin at $14. Check the website
for performance times or call
646-223-3010.

SPECIAL GIVEAWAY: New York Family is happy to offer readers a chance to win tickets to the Lucky Duck show! We have 2 family four-packs to give away this week. To enter to win, post on our Facebook page telling us why you like the show’s positive message. Then, send an email to familygiveaways@manhattanmedia.com with the subject line “Lucky Duck.” Be sure to include your name and contact information. Deadline is Monday, March 19.

Plus, everyone who enters the giveaway may use a 20% discount code for the show “DCDuck2869″ to receive reduced price tickets. Good luck!

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