“The Circus in Winter” began its theatrical life as a Ball State student project in 2010. Now the musical is set for a full production at the Goodspeed Opera House’s Norma Terris Theatre, one of the leading regional companies in the country.
“The Circus in Winter” will open Oct. 23 at East Haddam, Conn.-based Goodspeed, which also launched such hits as "Annie" and "Man of La Mancha," according to the show's producers. If critics and audiences like what they see this fall in that production, Broadway could be the show's next destination the following season.
The musical was inspired by the novel of the same name by Cathy Day. It features music and lyrics by Ben Clark, with a book by Ball State professor Beth Turcotte. Fourteen students under the guidance of Turcotte spent a semester helping develop the show, which premiered in a 2010 concert reading.
"Thinking back to the first draft and comparing it to now is surreal, but the mission is very much the same," Clark told IBJ on Monday. "The quality of the piece continues to grow, and I think it's because all we've really wanted is to make our dream come to life."
In the fall of 2011, it was fully produced at BSU. The show was one of eight new musicals invited to participate in the National Alliance for Musical Theater’s 2012 festival, where its cast included Tony Award-winner Sutton Foster (“Anything Goes,” TV’s “Bunheads”) and Steel Burkhardt (“Hair”). That same year, it won Outstanding Production of a New Work at the American College Theatre Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
New theater productions, of course, require money. Center Ring Theatricals, LLC, the Brooklyn-based company created to get the show up and running, is seeking donations for the Goodspeed production and investors for its subsequent life on stage.
Producer partners Sean Cercone (Broadway’s recent “Hands on a Hardbody”) and Ken Dingledine (vice president and director of operations for publisher Samuel French Inc.) are making the rounds drumming up necessary funds—including a recent visit to the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, where a truncated concert version of the show was presented Dec. 18.
Claire Buffie, marketing director for Center Ring, estimated that producers are seeking a few hundred thousand dollars to aid in the Goodspeed production. More serious bankrollers interested in investing in the future of the show are being asked for a minimum of $12,500, which would go toward an estimated $8 million to $10 million tab for Broadway, Buffie said.
Buffie noted that a group of Ball State alumni is pooling money through a representative.
The show's creative team will be enhanced for the Goodspeed production, with an announcement of a director and additional scriptwriter expected in early 2014.