Ooh La La! Theater RED and Kettle Moraine Players Collaborate on World Premiere Musical
By Ryan Albrechtson
Photo Credit: Theater RED
Everyone knows the classic scenes from I Love Lucy. Remember when she got a job wrapping candy on that assembly line? Or when she starred in that commercial for Vitameatavegamin? What about that one where she decided to pose nude in a portrait for a visiting French artist?
That last one may not sound familiar because it isn’t actually the plot of an episode you can catch on TV Land, but the premise of Girard’s Nude, a new musical written by local playwrights Kristin Bayer and Deanna Gibeau. The musical is set in 1953 in Waldenford, Pennsylvania, USA, where girdles are tight and morals even tighter. Middle-aged Ethel Evans meets Girard, a famous French artist who wants her to pose for him. In the nude. Ethel agrees, but needs to avoid scandalization from her many nosy friends and neighbors, and particularly her husband. Ooh la la!
“This is our third show we’ve written together,” says playwright Kristin Bayer. “We had such a good time and it was a wonderful experience collaborating with our first two. And so we were thinking about what we were going to work on next. We bounced around so many different ideas and thought maybe this or that. Then I read this book by Nancy Sweetland called Girard’s Nude and I thought ‘Deanna would love this!’ And she did.”
The pair reached out to Sweetland about adapting her novel into a musical, and she was overjoyed. “She thought that was the greatest thing,” says Bayer. “She said ‘Nobody ever calls and asks if they can make my novel into a musical - of course you can!’ She just loved the idea.”
And so they set off, tweaking the story to make it work on stage. Breathing new life to the story’s various characters from the French artist, the bored housewife, and the rigid husband.
“Ernest, especially in the beginning, has backbone… but usually in the wrong place,” shares Peter Gibeau, who plays Ethel’s husband in the show. “He has strong ideas about how things should be. What the role of a wife is and the role of a husband is. There’s one line where Ethel’s singing and I interrupt her to say ‘Sweetheart, not to criticize but my socks are all out of order here.’”
“It’s a coming of age story for a middle aged woman. But also a coming of age story for her husband, too. In order for her to grow he has to grow, and if they are going to save their relationship they both have to grow together,” says Bayer.
The show is a natural fit for a collaboration between Kettle Moraine Playhouse and Theater RED - two organizations with a dedication to producing new works. The show is directed by Theater RED’s Christopher Elst, and will perform in Kettle Moraine Playhouse’s newly renovated space in Slinger, WI.
“It’s a recently renovated old 1920’s church,” shares Bayer. “It’s a small stage, and very interesting. There’s only 64 seats, but it is on two levels because they use the old choir loft for seating. But then the stage is also two stories which is very cool, and the acoustics are phenomenal. No body mics are needed. It’s very intimate.”
The play focuses on many issues that translate well into today, including gender roles, body image, morality, and the subjectivity of art. “My character isn’t fond of the French artist,” says Gibeau. “There is some satire of xenophobia, which I think is very relevant right now.”
Audiences have the chance to check out the world premiere of this musical, running September 6-22 at the Kettle Moraine Playhouse. With only sixty-four seats in the house, you’ll probably want to grab your tickets before it’s too late. More information about the production and tickets can be found at TheaterRED.com