Guest blogger Michelle Kemper Brownlow: I recently had the opportunity to shoot some questions at Rose Caiola, founder of the Manhattan Youth Ballet and producer of "Freckleface Strawberry," a musical based on the picture books by Julianne Moore. "Freckleface Strawberry" opened at New World Stages on October 4th.
momlogic: What is it about "Freckleface Strawberry" that captured your heart?
Rose Caiola: Manhattan Youth Ballet
conducts a great deal of lecture demonstrations annually for inner-city kids grades K through 12 that we often link to a literacy component. We have offered a great many scholarships to those kids, many of whom were from at-risk homes and went on to professional careers as dancers. I thought the book "Freckleface Strawberry" would be ideal for that purpose, because the message has universal appeal: Love who you are and celebrate being different. The book is about tolerance, acceptance and friendship. When I saw all the diverse colors, shapes and sizes of the kids in the illustrations, it inspired me to bring those characters to life so that a diverse audience could find someone in the cast to relate to.
ml: Tell us about the cast.
RC: The cast consists of several Broadway vets, including our lead, Hayley, who was one of the leads of "Hairspray" on Broadway. It was extremely important to me to find seven distinct actors and two understudies who were not only ethnically diverse but were also what we call in the biz "triple threats," meaning great singers, dancers and actors.
ml: What was the hardest role to cast?
The toughest role to cast was a triple part played by Broadway vet Linda Gabler
. Linda is a true chameleon and moves from her role as sympathetic mom to zany teacher and finally to the bookworm kid in the ensemble with ease.
ml: Would you consider producing another show based on a kids' book?
RC: As a mother of two boys, I am thrilled to create shows that my children love. Yes, I would certainly produce and adapt another children's book if I saw a project that inspired me and I thought would entertain my kids. They are the audience, so I often use them as my guide. Their laughter and smiles are my greatest reward.
ml: How did you and Julianne Moore meet?
Shortly after I found the book, I coincidentally met Julianne Moore
at a social event. After telling her of my background, I asked her how she would feel about me attempting to write a musical from her book. She told me to give it a try. After I completed the script with my partner Gary Kupper
and he composed the songs, we presented it to Julie and she happily gave me the option to produce. She was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed our presentation.
RC: Julianne Moore
was thrilled with the show, as was her family! Of course, I was nervous and anxious for her approval. She is the character, and I wanted her to be happy. Thankfully, she was. She was very gracious to the cast and has been very supportive of me and my work through the whole creative process. Her notes were always appreciated and I made every effort to incorporate her opinions as much as possible. â€¨
For more information about "Freckleface Strawberry," or to buy tickets, click here