Broadway Stars Discover Carmel

June 2021

Writer // Janelle Morrison      

This month, Carmel Monthly is pleased to feature some of Broadway’s brightest stars—Christy Altomare, Corey Cott, Marcy Heisler, Zina Goldrich, Kate Wetherhead and Marlo Hunter—on our cover!

As many Broadway enthusiasts know, this team of extraordinary talent came to Carmel, Indiana, last May for a writers retreat program hosted by Discovering Broadway. We had the incredible opportunity to sit in on the rehearsal and speak with the creative team and stars about working at the Hotel Carmichael while creating five new songs from the new musical “Ever After.”

Broadway Stars Discover Carmel

Altomare and Cott performed selections from the new musical at Feinstein’s at Hotel Carmichael on May 23 for an intimate audience that included locals and fans who traveled from out of state just to get a first glimpse of this exciting new musical.

From Carmel to New York City

Founded by Carmel native and CEO Joel Kirk, Discovering Broadway Inc. hosts Broadway creative teams in Indiana so they can develop their Broadway-bound new musicals and offer the public educational opportunities to learn about the process of making a musical. The organization programs seminars to the public and master classes for aspiring performers.

Broadway Stars Discover Carmel
Joel Kirk

Kirk is a New York City theater director and producer who specializes in the development of new plays and musicals. He has worked with New World Stages, Playwrights Horizons, NYMF, The Lark, New Dramatists, Sheen Center, Hudson Guild Theatre, Wide Eyed Productions and WorkShop Theatre, to name a few. Recently he worked with Tony Award winner Reed Birney and Tony Award nominee Sydney Lucas on the play “Changeover.” He has guest directed for NYU’S Grad Playwriting Program, Ball State University, Juilliard and Fordham University’s Playwriting Program. He is the chairman/CEO of Joel Kirk Productions LLC, a production company that produces commercial theater.

Carmel Welcomes Broadway Royalty

Kirk reflected on the process and credited the retreat’s success to the hospitality and support that was provided to the creative team by the staff at the Hotel Carmichael, the city and Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard.

Kirk shared, “One of the greatest things I can hear a creative team say is that they need to cancel a Trader Joe’s run because they’re in the middle of a creative discovery. We created a firm itinerary so that everyone who visited Carmel with this process had absolutely everything they needed. The more that itinerary changes based on their creativity, the better because it means a new song is emerging or a whole new thought on how to open the show [is emerging], or maybe a scene’s not working and it needs more conflict, so they make tiny adjustments.”

Kirk shared a story told to him by the creative team that best highlights Carmel hospitality at its finest.

“Where else should you be writing a musical about a fairy tale in a place that is so awe-inspiring than in Carmel, Indiana,” Kirk expressed. “We’d be talking about the city while taking a walk on the Monon [Trail], and all of a sudden one of the writers would have figured out what needed to happen [in a scene], and then they’re writing notes in their phone. It was just magic, and it’s like this really beautiful life continuously being interrupted by beautiful inspiration.”

The creative team shared with Kirk that Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard walked over to the team as they were traversing the Monon Trail in search of their evening meal, and Brainard personally guided them up to the Arts & Design District where the team enjoyed themselves at Monterey Coastal Cuisine on Main Street.

Kirk added, “Only in Indiana can something as wonderful and beautiful as that happen. He was literally supporting people getting to where they need to go, which is sort of the tagline for what we want Discovering Broadway to do. We want to help shows get to where they want to go.”

A Few Words With the “Ever After” Team

“Ever After” is the second show to participate in Discovering Broadway’s program, following the February workshop of “The Devil Wears Prada” musical.

Based on the Twentieth Century Studios film starring Drew Barrymore and Anjelica Huston, “Ever After” has music by award-winning songwriting team Zina Goldrich (“Breathe,” “Yay People Yay!,” Drama Desk nomination for “Dear Edwina”) and Marcy Heisler who provided lyrics (“Williamsburg,” Drama Desk nomination for “Dear Edwina”). The book is by Marcy Heisler and Kate Wetherhead (book co-writer for “The Devil Wears Prada,” co-creator/writer/director/star of the online comedy “Submissions Only”). Directing the new musical is Marlo Hunter (“American Reject,” Callaway Award winner for directing/choreographing “Unlock’d”).

Broadway Stars Discover Carmel
Corey Cott and Christy Altomare

“Ever After” showcases two of Broadway’s most charismatic stars, Christy Altomare—who starred in “Anastasia”—and Corey Cott, who is best known for playing Jack Kelly in the Broadway musical “Newsies” and originating the role of Donny Novitski in the Broadway musical “Bandstand.”

Altomare shared her thoughts on working in Carmel and on developing her character, Danielle De Barbarac.

“I love ‘Ever After,’ it’s one of my favorite shows,” Altomare expressed. “I can’t believe that [the creative team] is getting to realize it in this special, magical way where they get to—in a safe, beautiful and opulent environment—completely let their guard down and find the show in a way they want to realize it. I’m so excited for the way that my character, Danielle, has developed and grown. Her arc is so powerful, real and honest. I can’t wait for [the character] to eventually have a life and for young girls to follow this new character that is going to mean so much to so many people.”

What would a musical about Cinderella be without the handsome prince? Cott shared what has attracted him most to the role of Prince Henry.

“It’s a process to make [a character] your own,” Cott shared. “It can take weeks and months to figure out all of the intricacies and unique qualities of a character. The thing that attracts me to the character of Henry is his vulnerability. A person in a position of power can be vulnerable, but they’re not allowed to show their vulnerability. Henry says the word ‘questions’ a lot in the show. He has a lot of questions about what he wants and how he is going to facilitate what is expected of him. He’s trying to live up to these expectations, and there’s this internal struggle about who he is. As [Corey], I can connect with his questioning of everything. Especially since this past year. I think we’ve all been asking big life questions this past year.”

Members of the “Ever After” team shared their impressions of working in Carmel during this retreat and were highly complimentary of the city’s hospitality and accommodations as well.

Broadway Stars Carmel

Goldrich shared, “I think what being in Carmel has afforded us is absolute focus. Everybody here has been very welcoming and lovely and helpful. So, we were able to unwind in the evening, go out for dinner, and sometimes we would come back and dream some more and do some more, and we do this whole thing over and over again, and it’s been amazing.”

Heisler added, “Everything about this experience has been welcoming, and I think that is so necessary when you’re creating something—it’s a vulnerable place. And the best way that you create your best work is to know that you’ve got supportive people who understand not only what you’re trying to do but understand you have to write the wrong song to write the right song and to have room to grow and think about what you’re doing. Carmel is just a lovely supportive environment.”

Echoing the sentiments of her fellow creative team members, Hunter said, “It’s really a blessing, and in terms of being able to do it here in Carmel, and what’s really unique about this situation is the vibrancy of the city. The supporters and the people are so excited about not just witnessing artistic creation but supporting it. It is truly unique, and so we’re in this space where we feel creatively safe amidst this community that really wants to be a part of it, and that’s really tremendous. It has brought a unique energy to our process.”

Appreciative of the community’s support of this phase of a musical’s creative journey, Wetherhead concluded, “I was thinking about how this stage of the process doesn’t get the kind of attention that other parts of a process gets, like getting the costumes made, etc. And the fact that this delicate and tender part of the development is being treated with such respect and enthusiasm, and I dare say celebration, feels particularly special. It’s fun to be able to share this part of [the process] with a broader group of people.”

For more information on Discovering Broadway, visit discoveringbroadway.org.