by Stephen Cole
AFTER THE FAIR was born from the ashes of a musical that never was produced. Composer Matthew Martin Ward and I had come together to write a musical version of a short story by a writer who shall remain nameless...alright, it was Ray Bradbury...anyway, we were encouraged by his agent to continue our work and to then bring them the finished product. We wrote a wonderful little musical and made a big demo starring Broadway's Beth Fowler, and had our agent send it off to his agent. Well, you can imagine our devastated chagrin when Mr. Bradbury told us that, although our show was great, HE was writing a musical of the same story. What to do? As the song says, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off,” and write a new musical. But what? It was a good friend who told me to watch a BBC film on PBS. This is your new musical, he decreed. I saw it, loved it, and went to get the book. Actually, a short story entitled On the Western Circuit by Thomas Hardy, written in 1895 and, heaven help us, PUBLIC DOMAIN. We had no pesky rights or living authors to bother us. We could just sit down and write the musical. And write we did, even stealing a tune or two from that aborted Ray Bradbury musical...and by the way, he never wrote his version! And now, AFTER THE FAIR is 21, but like most musicals, it lies about its age, Yes, we had our world premiere at Dallas Lyric Stage in 1997, but there was a whole life before that consisting of writing, readings, rewriting, more readings, workshops, options, the Promenade Theatre Award, the Gilman-Gonzales Award, NAMT, NMTN and every other acronym that would present us. After winning five Dallas Theater League Awards, it moved on to Chicago, Seattle and eventually landing Off Broadway at the York Theatre in NYC (garnering a Best Musical nomination from the Outer Critics...the inner critics were another story...and an original cast CD) and then sailed triumphantly to London. There have been many brilliant quartets of actors who have brought our show to life, and each added new layers to Hardy's ironic tale. From Mary Beth Piel, Lorna Dallas, Jennifer Lee Andrews, Marcus Lovett, Kim Crosby, and the late greats Kevin Gray, Chester Ludwig and Earl Wrightson. Kathy Morath was Edith in Dallas, Mary Jo Dugaw played her in Seattle and Michele Pawk in NYC. Jennifer Piech, Jimmy Ludwig and David Staller filled out our Off-Broadway cast with style and verve. The list goes on and on, and Matthew and I salute them all with love and affection and thank them for bringing our musical to life. Happy Birthday, After the Fair. There's life in the old girl yet.
Photos courtesy of https://www.stephencolewriter.org.