01/05 Thanks to Suzette Zurbano for the following articles:

12/3/99 Star-Ledger (Newark N.J.) 007
1999 WL 30211682

The Star-Ledger Newark, NJ

(c) 1999. The Star-Ledger. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 3, 1999
NJ STAGE - Holiday oratorio made arduous trip to Millburn
Peter Filichia
Star-Ledger Staff


King Island Christmas

Where: Paper Mill Playhouse, Brookside Drive, Millburn When: Tuesday 
at 7:30 p.m. How much: $28, $35 and $40. Call (973) 376-4343.

(Publication page references are not available for this document.)
The Eskimos who struggle in "King Island Christmas" to get food to 
their isolated village have nothing on lyricist Deborah B. Brevoort.

The Ridgewood native worked long and hard to get her musical version 
of "King Island Christmas" to the stage. Despite many roadblocks, 
Brevoort's efforts prevailed. And so, the oratorio will play Paper Mill 
Playhouse on Tuesday.

Not long after Brevoort moved to Alaska in 1978 ("My husband and I 
went there for a honeymoon and never left"), she discovered a 30-page 
children's picture book called "King Island Christmas" by Jean Rogers. 
It told of a tiny island in the Bering Sea, whose 150 inhabitants wait 
each winter for a boat to deliver supplies - and a priest - before the 
sea freezes. But one year, a huge storm arrives early, and the community 
learns that the boat won't be able to reach them. That means no food - 
and no clergyman to marry engaged couples.

"So," says Brevoort, "15 people got together and carried an oomiak - 
that's a boat made from walrus skin - over the snow and ice and a 
mountain to get to the ship. I thought this was a story that sang out 
for music."

And Brevoort knew from musical theater. "I fell in love with it at an 
early age," she says. "My parents were members of the Ridgewood Gilbert 
& Sullivan Opera Company. They couldn't afford baby sitters, so they 
took my younger brother John and me to rehearsals. By the time I was 8, 
I knew every song to every G&S operetta."

Brevoort also credits Janet Steinle and Stuart Postal, two English 
teachers at Ridgewood High School, for spurring her interest in 
playwriting. Nevertheless, for many years, she didn't do anything with 
"King Island Christmas."

For one thing, she was busy with her chores as producing director of 
the Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, where she also acted - "because 
performers were not plentiful," she says with modesty. But she couldn't 
have been too bad, given that she landed the lead roles in "Cat on a Hot 
Tin Roof" and "The Cherry Orchard."

Finally, in 1991, she returned to the lower 48, received graduate 
degrees from Brown and the NYU Musical Theatre Program, and, in 1994, 
secured a three-year option on the property.

"The condition was that a production had to be scheduled by June 30, 
1997," she says. "I figured I could make that easily."

But the first composer she tried didn't work out. Neither did a 
second. Suddenly, it was February 1997, and while Brevoort had finished 
her lyrics, not a note of usable music had been written. "Only five 
months left before my option expired," she says. "I figured I'd have to 
drop my dream."

Then a friend suggested that she try David Friedman.

Friedman is a Manhattan cabaret favorite who wrote both music and 
lyrics for "Help Is on the Way," now an established anthem in the fight 
against AIDS; "Listen to My Heart," recorded by Kathie Lee Gifford, 
Laurie Beechman and Nancy LaMott, and "My Simple Christmas Wish," in 
which a woman asks Santa Claus in no uncertain terms to make her "rich, 
famous, and powerful" so that she can "step on all my enemies and never 
do a thing."

But Friedman occasionally sets music to others' words. "I gave David a 

lyric," Brevoort says, "and he immediately started writing music to it - 
music that's still in the show today."

Friedman's speed impressed Brevoort, who then impressed upon him that 
it all had to be completed in 150 days, and that a theater would have 
to promise to do it, or else their efforts would be wasted.

"So," she says, "I asked Molly Smith, Perseverance's artistic 
director, to hear what David had written - all four bars of it. Even 
with so little, Molly saw what I saw, and wrote a letter to the book's 
publisher and assured them that she'd do it in Alaska. Which she did the 
following winter, after David and I completed it."

"King Island Christmas" has since played numerous venues around the 
country. At the Paper Mill, artistic director Robert Johanson directs 
and appears in the production. Also featured are Paolo Montalban, who 
played the Prince in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" on 
television; Judy McLane, who starred at the theater in "Evita" and 
"Oliver!"; Paul S. Iacono, who was recently seen as Young Patrick in 
"Mame"; and Dee Billia, from the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival's "The 
Threepenny Opera."

1. "I fell in love with it at an early age," says lyricist Deborah B. Brevoort.
"My parents were members of the Ridgewood Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company.
They couldn't afford babysitters, so they took my younger brother John and me 
to rehearsals. By the time I was 8, I knew every song to every G&S operetta."

NEWS SUBJECT: Arts & Entertainment; Arts, Entertainment & Theater Section (ART AEN)

11/29/99 Dallas Morning News 1C
1999 WL 29820560

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 1999 Information Access Company. All rights reserved. COPYRIGHT 1999
The Dallas Morning News, L.P.

Monday, November 29, 1999

One magical day inspires a play.(TODAY)(KIDS' THEATER)
Nancy Churnin


King Island Christmas is a play of Christmas Past that is hoping for a 
big future.

The play, which gets its first full-scale production at the Lyric 
Stage in Irving Saturday, is inspired by the recollections of Rie Munoz, 
who couldn't forget a magical day in 1951 when the 150 townspeople of 
King Island, Alaska, refused to accept that the sea was too stormy to 
bring a priest in time to lead their Christmas service.

The villagers radioed the boat with the priest that if the sea was too 
rough on the side where the villagers lived, then the boat - the North Star - 
should go to the other side of the island where it was calmer. The North 
Star wouldn't be able to dock, but the villagers would carry an oomiak - 
a walrus-skin covered boat - over the mountain that separated them from 
the other side. Then they would row their small boat out to get the 
priest and the small presents - oranges, chocolate, small toys - he had 
for the children.

Ms. Munoz, now 78, was a Los Angeles native who went on a vacation to 
Alaska, fell in love with the land and stayed. She was a schoolteacher 
on King Island when she joined the others on their hike 1,000 feet up.

"I admired the spirit of these people," Ms. Munoz says from her home 
in Juneau. "Who would ever think of carrying a boat over a
mountain? But the Eskimos are a very resourceful people. They don't 
think, "Oh, the weather's too rough and it's too bad he can't come.'

"It was a wonderful, joyful excursion. All of the village went along, 
the children, the mothers with babies on their backs, even the dogs."

That spirit of what can be accomplished when people work together is 
at the heart of the story. Ms. Munoz first told it through illustrations 
for a children's book written by her friend Jean Rogers. (Ms. Munoz says 
her 7-year-old granddaughter likes to count the villagers in the picture 
to make sure she has drawn all 150. She has.)

And now King Island makes its debut in the continental United States 
at Lyric Stage. It may seem like quite a leap from rough island life to 
a comfortable theater in landlocked Texas.

But as far as composer David Friedman is concerned, King Island 
Christmas is a universal story that he hopes will spread.

Mr. Friedman, 49, a native New Yorker, is a frequent conductor of 
Disney films, and his songs have been recorded by Diana Ross, Barry 
Manilow and Petula Clark. He likes to refer to himself as the "litmus 
test" for the project.

He's Jewish and so hopelessly urban that his first reaction to hearing 
about the storm was: "Why not have the doorman shovel the walk?"

But librettist Deborah Baley Brevoort, 45, who brought him the 
project, found that he was the first composer she approached who 
understood why she couldn't get this slim little children's book out of 
her head.

"Everyone said I was crazy, but I wanted to write the Christmas show 
that I always wanted to see but no one has ever done," Ms. Brevoort says 
from Juneau.

And it turned out that Mr. Friedman felt the same way.
"I love to write things that put a point of view into the world about 
our connection to the world, to nature, to the importance of assisting 
other people. Your first reaction may be, "Oh, this is about Alaska, how 
exotic, how different from you and me.'

"But one of the things that would make this world a vastly better 
place is if people would realize that we're all one world and when that 
one world works together."

Mr. Friedman plans to fly out to catch the opening of King Island 
Christmas. He hopes to cull ideas from this and other productions now in 
development, for a production he hopes ultimately will go to Broadway.

To drum up interest, he is selling a CD of the show's music produced 
by 12-time Grammy winner Thomas Z. Shepard, orchestrated by Emmy and 
Grammy winner Peter Matz and recorded by such Broadway stars as Tony 
winner Chuck Cooper; Marin Mazzie, now starring in Kiss Me, Kate; and 
Paolo Montalban, Prince Charming in Whitney Houston's Cinderella.

The idea is inspired by the way Andrew Lloyd Webber promoted the album 
of Jesus Christ Superstar before there was a show.

And any interest spurred by the show at Lyric Stage wouldn't hurt 

A Christmas Carol is one of the most beloved and popular family shows, 
a Christmas staple at the Dallas Theater Center and stages all across 
the country.

But Joel Ferrell, artistic director of the Casa Manana Playhouse, felt 
that the scripts he read were too frightening and the language too 
arcane to be accessible to his young audiences at the Casa Manana's 
Children's Playhouse.

So he spent the last nine months crafting a one-hour musical 
children's version of Charles Dickens' classic with the help of Dallas 
composer Elaine Davidson.

"We tried to give it a fun feel," he says. "The Muppet Christmas Carol 
had an influence on me."

The Muppets gave him the idea not only to inject more humor where he 
could, but also to use puppets or puppet-actor combinations for his 

While the works in Casa's regular season demand a lot of his 
attention, he feels a great deal of loyalty to the children's 
programming. After all, it was seeing his first show as an 8-year-old at 
Casa Manana that got him into theater in the first place.

"I begged my parents to go and thought it was the most glorious thing 
I ever saw in my life. I was completely hooked. My parents call it the 
day the curse hit," he says.

At 40, it's still a thrill watching the faces of his young audiences.

"I love to hear the oohs and ahhs that let you know they're sitting on 
the edge of their seats."

Not all the skating will be at rinks this week. The Classics 
Children's Theatre presents ArtsPower National Touring Theatre's Hans 
Brinker's Christmas, complete with a dazzling race for silver skates 
Sunday at Williams High School in Plano.

ArtsPower, which recently brought its touching production of A Little 
Princess to the Classics and the Jewish Community Center's FamiliArts 
series, musicalizes Mary Mapes Dodge's book about a boy in 1840s Holland 
who learns some unexpected lessons about courage and character on his 
way to the race.

Macy's, as fans of Miracle on 34th Street may recall, was the store 
warring with Gimbel's as to which one had the best Christmas spirit. 
Well, Gimbel's may not be around anymore, but Macy's Dallas Galleria is 
alive and well and taking an active role in sponsoring the Dallas 
Children's Theater's production of Miracle on 34th Street, opening 
Friday. The store is even supplying some of the fashions worn by Susan, 
the young girl who finds it hard to believe that there really is a Santa 


* Lyric Stage presents King Island Christmas at the Irving Arts 
Center's Dupree Theater, 3333 North MacArthur Blvd., Irving. Saturday 
through Dec. 18; performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays; 2:30 
p.m. Sundays and Dec. 18. Tickets are $15 to $25. Call 972-252-2787.

* Casa Manana's Children's Playhouse presents Scrooge - A Children's 
Christmas Carol at Casa Manana Theatre, 3101 W. Lancaster, Fort Worth. 
Friday through Dec. 19; performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and 2 p.m. 
Saturdays and Sundays. School performances at 10 a.m. Mondays through 
Fridays (with a signed performance for the hearing impaired at 10 a.m. 
Friday) through Dec. 17. Tickets are $9 and $4 for school groups. Call 

* The Classics Children's Theatre Series presents Arts-Power National 
Touring Theatre's Hans Brinker's Christmas at Williams High School, 3000 
Los Rios Blvd., Plano. 2 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $6. Call 

* Dallas Children's Theater presents Miracle on 34th Street at El 
Centro College Theater, Main and Market streets. Performances at 7:30 
p.m. Fridays, 1:30 p.m. Saturdays and 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Sundays. 
Tickets are $13 children, $15 adults. Call 214-978-0110.