HI all. My name is Gary Kupper and I’m the co-writer and lyricist/composer of the Off Broadway family musical Freckleface Strawberry. This show has been a great adventure for me and the whole creative team who adapted the best selling children’s book by the actress Julianne Moore and Illustrator LeuYen Pham.
The creative team which includes Rose Caiola, the producer and co-writer of the script, Buddy Crutchfield, the director, and his wife, Gail Pennington Crutchfield, the choreographer and myself all worked hard to create a show that we wanted to be something the entire family could enjoy. A show for children of all ages.
This show is a great experience for kids, who relate directly to the characters on stage in situations they can identify with in a fast moving story that captivates them. Adults get to go back and relate to how they felt as children and get in touch with those experiences of our childhood we carry with us throughout our lives. It’s funny and entertaining but also a meaningful experience for the whole family to share.
The messages of self acceptance and understanding the differences we all possess in this world of ours gives our wonderful show it’s firm foundation. It reaches down and teaches and touches kids while giving them the experience of a real full fledged musical with great singing, dancing and comedy. For many kids our show is the very first live musical they’ve ever been to.
I am forever grateful to Rose Caiola, who had the original vision that the book Freckleface Strawberry had the makings of a great musical. She gave me the book to read and asked if I wanted to work on it with her. I was already working on three musicals at the time, but I took the book with me and it began working it’s magic on me. I signed on with her and soon began working on adapting the book. Rose then approached her friends Buddy and Gail to help put the show together.
I had a great time writing the songs for the show as well as the script which expanded upon the world that Ms. Moore created in her wonderful book.
I wrote many of the songs and the first draft of the script while I was working down in Florida touring as a musician, playing in the evenings while having a lot of time during the days to write. I worked with the book’s basic story and beautiful illustrations and we all worked via email fashioning our shared theatrical vision for the show. I started improvising melodies and lyrics that became the songs Kid in the Mask, Little Freckleface Strawberry, Be Yourself. Different and Happily Ever After. I wrote Lonely Girl one afternoon when I was feeling very lonely and far from home missing my friends and family. I originally wrote it for Strawberry. But when we met with Julianne Moore to play her the songs and read the script, she said she loved the song, but that it wasn’t right for Strawberry. So Rose and I came up with a character called Ballet Girl. I went home and improvised the scene on my little digital recorder and then wrote the scene for her where she opens up to Strawberry, telling her that “it’s lonely being gifted.” And I decided that the song Lonely Girl would be great for her to sing with Strawberry in that scene. We all loved the song and were happy it found a home in the show after all.
Julianne also commented that kids around the age of Strawberry, who is 7 in the book, begin changing their awareness of the world as they start noticing other kids and realizing the differences in each other. They tease each other and can be mean like in Ms. Moore’s case, making fun of her freckles and bright red hair. This as we know can be very serious and sometimes leads to bullying and hurtful behavior as we get older as well. But at that age children also begin to want to be like other kids as well, and look outwards envying others’ desirable features, and in some cases lose sight of their own uniqueness. This we all felt was a key element we wanted reflected in the show. I went home, inspired by Ms. Moore’s observations that day, and wrote I Want To Be Like Them.
And so the show developed helped by Buddy’s great direction and Gail’s wonderful choreography which enhanced the story in our script. We workshopped it with 23 kids at Rose’s school, Manhattan Movement and Art Center or MMAC. We then decided to have a reading with 12 older actors playing kids. And eventually shortened the cast down to 7 characters. Rose then decided to produce it Off Broadway at New World Stages. I added three more songs, I Like Danny, for Emily, Creative Mind Rap for the teacher, and Basketball for Danny, Harry and the ensemble.
We then found some of the most talented and versatile young performers in New York, and a wonderful group of designers and creative geniuses and a fantastic crew of behind the scenes professionals second to none. And I am very proud to be a part of the collaboration that created this wonderful family musical which we hope we can share with every child and every grownup who was ever a child. That would be everyone in this world. And that’s our ultimate goal for our gem of a show. To share it with the whole world.
And so the wonderful adventure rolls on.
Come and check it out if you haven’t. If you have, spread the word to your friends and family. You don’t have to be accompanied by a child, you just have to the bring the one inside you and you’ll have an amazing time.