On March 10, 2011, The Academy for New Musical Theatre announced that "The Spirit of River City" won 2nd Prize in their national Search for New Musicals. The show received a free staff table reading and four-hour evaluation session in August, resulting in dropping of some songs, two new songs and a terrific new opening.
"Banjo Boy" (now "The Spirit of River City") premiered in Fairfield, Iowa, at the Stephen Sondheim Performing Arts Center on August 8, 2008 and ran through August 17th. The orchestration, choreography, singing and acting were of Broadway-level quality, featuring actors from all over the country. I made literally 1,000 changes to the book, cut 3 songs, added more humor, and trimmed 20 minutes. The result had even octogenerians dancing in the aisles! For a full review, go to Reviews.
See Two Numbers on You Tube! Go to www.youtube.com and search on "Sears, Dear Sears" to see the full production number. Search on "Thanks Be to Music" (using quotation marks) to catch the show-stopping, toe-tapping number where a young Louis Armstrong sings to a young Meredith Willson.
The hapless mailman is surrounded in the "Sears, Dear Sears" number.
The Spirit of River City is a family bio-musical with a twist--from heaven an elderly Meredith Willson--himself a "spirit", goes back to 1928 to repair his non-existent relationship with his father. His adventures upon running away from home include meeting a young Louis Armstrong, tracking down an elderly John Philip Sousa in San Francisco, falling in love with Zi Ling, a Chinese mui tsai (indentured servant), forming a group--The Banjo Boys--and returning home to Mason City, Iowa to help win the Iowa High School Band contest with his own song and win back the love of his father. The Spirit of River City is a glorious celebration of American Music, of American diversity, and of the life of Meredith Willson. The songs crackle with wit, rhythm and hummable melodies!
Rosalie Willson challenges young Meredith to rhyme "glockenspiel".
If you love musicals the way they used to be and want to help The Spirit of River City see the light of day, please listen to the showstopper song, "Thanks Be to Music" on this website, see the "Sears, Dear Sears" video on www.youtube.com. Please ask me for a copy of the book, which I can e-mail to you. And if you like what you hear and what you see, you can help make The Spirit of River City happen. Just click on the "Donations" link on the left for a full explanation or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.