Bonnie Logan and Richard Peshkin readily concede that they are novices when it comes to writing musicals, but that is what has occupied much of their time for the past two years.
If all goes well at their four-night premiere run beginning Sept. 19 at the Wick Theatre, their show – Boca Bound: A New Musical – may be bound for productions at regional theaters all across the country.
Most musicals begin as adaptations of plays, novels or movies. Boca Bound began with an immobilizing mishap. In 2017, Logan took a bad spill and was laid up in bed at her Polo Club home, unable to move for months. Neighbor Peshkin, a retired physician and amateur songwriter, came for a visit and brought a couple of his newest tunes with him.
As he says of her, “I knew that she was funny, very articulate, she had a way with language and she’s bright. And I asked her, ‘Do you think you could come up with a plot to fit these songs into?’”
“I had never written for the theater,” Logan admits. “I loved the theater, loved telling stories, but what I realized was this was the opportunity I needed. And somehow I began to feel that I could do this. This was a tremendous opportunity for me after this horrendous thing happened to me.”
What began as a light-hearted look at country club life in South Florida gradually deepened into a tale about a successful New York lawyer named Nadine (Neva Rae Powers) who is forced to retire. Unexpectedly, she relocates to Boca where longtime friend Gert (Missy McArdle) lives. There Nadine begins a new life and faces her grown children, whom she had neglected in favor of her career.
Peshkin recalls how much the show has changed since they began writing it.
“Many of the earliest songs had to do with country club things, like one about the general manager who was getting harassed by the members of the club. But we didn’t want to put down the people of the club. We have to live here, too. So we modified even the songs that we kept. You wouldn’t even recognize them from where they started.”
In April of last year, Boca Bound met its first audience, at a staged reading at the Polo Club.
“It served a great purpose for us, because it showed exactly where we were hitting doubles and triples and where we were striking out,” says Peshkin. “Afterwards, we got together and changed a lot of the emphasis of the show. It changed from a romantic show to one about relationships with children and best friends.”
Although they felt they were making progress, Logan and Peshkin realized they needed some professional assistance. “It’s hard because there is no blueprint when you’re writing a new original show,” says Logan. “The risk is just enormous. And we were getting frustrated.”
Then one night in January, while attending a cabaret performance at her club, she approached the pianist, Michael J. Moritz Jr., not knowing that he was a Tony Award-winning producer of Hadestown and an acclaimed music supervisor and vocal arranger.
“I told him we were novices and didn’t really know what was going on,” says Logan, “but he said he was intrigued by our story. We got him the script and the music and within four days he agreed to work with us.”
While Moritz was working with Peshkin, showing him how his pop songs could become more theatrical, the show hit another crisis. It was becoming clear that the original director who signed onto the project was not up to the task and had to be let go. But serendipitously, Moritz knew of an ideal director, Chad Larabee, who specialized in shaping and staging new musicals.
“As I started talking with Bonnie and Rich about the piece, I was really drawn to the complicated relationship between the adult children and their parents,” notes Larabee. “And I also really loved that they’re presenting this view of retirement as an exciting time, full of the opportunity to have new experiences and to redefine yourself.”
But, he adds, the story was not being told as effectively as it could be. “A lot of things were said directly instead of revealed through action. Now I think we’ve gotten to a place where it’s going to feel more active, more realistic.”
“The first time I met Chad, he had the whole show charted out, each scene with all the plot points,” Logan recalls. “He taught me how to build the suspense. It was like having your own professor teaching you exactly how to do it. That led to even more rewrites.”
Asked about Bonnie’s strengths as a writer, Larabee says she “brings her entire life and experiences into her writing. If something’s not working with her writing, she’s very open to making changes.” And of Peshkin, he comments, “He writes nice catchy material and he’s not afraid to go deeper, always ready to make changes. He wrote four different versions of the finale and one song was rewritten three times.”
As they head into rehearsals for the Wick showcase, Logan and Peshkin expect there are more rewrites to be made, but they feel good about the show they now have.
“I think our show is highly accessible. We don’t talk down to the audience. We treat them with respect,” says Peshkin. “We’ve purposely tried to make the show very uplifting in every way. I think we’ve addressed our concerns about the show. There’s no telling how the audience will react to it but we’re confident.”
“Are the jokes funny? We’ll find out in rehearsals,” says Logan. “I’m concerned that we don’t disappoint everyone here. I was concerned that there would be naysayers, that they would be jealous. So far, that has not happened. A lot of people here are rooting for us.”
The day after the performances at the Wick, the cast and eight-piece orchestra go into a studio to record the score to market the show to prospective producers and regional theaters.
“Michael would ask me, ‘What do you want out of this? Are you looking for Broadway?’ I just want this, in our lives at this time, to be the most wonderful premiere anyone could ever have,” says Logan. “Then I want everyone to see it who can see it.”
BOCA BOUND: A NEW MUSICAL, White Ibis Productions at The Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Thursday, Sept. 19-Sunday, Sept. 22. $50-$55, with a portion of proceeds donated to The Pap Corps, a charitable organization dedicated to cancer research. 561-995-2333.