Gosselin Brings A Whale Of A Tale To Broadway - The Caledonian-Record - St. Johnsbury, VT
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home : top news : top news February 5, 2016

4/2/2013 8:29:00 AM
Gosselin Brings A Whale Of A Tale To Broadway
Courtesy Photo
Chase Gosselin, center, speaks with designer Chris March, seated, after the staged reading of his adaptation of “Moby Dick - The Musical” in New York.
+ click to enlarge

Courtesy Photo

Chase Gosselin, center, speaks with designer Chris March, seated, after the staged reading of his adaptation of “Moby Dick - The Musical” in New York.

Courtesy PhotoChase Gosselin, right, with Hereward Kaye, composer of the score for “Moby Dick- The Musical.”
+ click to enlarge

Courtesy Photo

Chase Gosselin, right, with Hereward Kaye, composer of the score for “Moby Dick- The Musical.”

Jennifer Hersey Cleveland
Staff Writer

For most 18-year-olds, acceptance at the prestigious New York University would represent the pinnacle of achievement in their young lives.

But Chase Gosselin, a Derby native, decided to defer his enrollment there to tackle another project.

He's going to stage a Broadway musical instead.

"I'm sure there were people thinking, 'What in the world is he doing?'" Gosselin said during an interview Monday. "Saying no to that is just the most ridiculous thing ever."

But then, how many 18-year-olds are offered a chance to direct a Broadway show by none other than producer Cameron Mackintosh, who brought "Les Miserables," "Phantom of the Opera" and "Cats" to the stage?

Gosselin, who created Act Three Theatricals as a student at United Christian Academy in Newport, came upon the script for "Moby Dick -- The Musical" when he was 11 years old. He thought the play was hilarious, even though he didn't truly get much of the raunchy humor at the time.

"It was something I couldn't believe more people didn't know about," Gosselin said.

The play, first run as "Moby Dick! A Whale of a Tale," tells the story of an all-girls boarding school for hellions, Gosselin said. The headmistress gambles away all of the school's money and tells the students they need to have a fundraiser. The girls drain the school's swimming pool and stage a full production of Herman Melville's "Moby Dick."

Gosselin said the music has a seventies and eighties feel to it, with "pastichey" numbers reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan and Riverdance as well as sea shanties and drinking songs.

To pull it off, the audience has to buy into the production within a production, Gosselin said. "I have to pull off a contradiction -- a long novel that people dread reading in the context of a fluff piece at a girls' school," he said.

"Some of the funniest lines are directly from the novel," Gosselin said, which any reader of Melville would acknowledge with a wry grin.

"It's just ridiculously funny," he said.

The play was first written in 1983 and didn't make it to the stage until Mackintosh's 1992 production in London's West End. It was rewritten in 2003 to give the very British play an American sensibility.

Gosselin wrote to the authors about what he'd like to do with the script, and got a very enthusiastic response. Drawing from 30 years of materials, including a German iteration and many musical numbers, Gosselin started with a blank page and began writing the story the way he envisioned it.

In a flurry of e-mail exchanges with authors and composers, Mackintosh was sent some of the conversation, and soon after, Nicholas Allot, managing director for CML, Mackintosh's production company, sent an e-mail to Gosselin, letting him know about a cabaret performance of the play planned in London.

Gosselin finished his draft, and rather than attend the Golden Globe awards, Mackintosh read the script.

"Any playwright in the history of musical theater would die to have Cameron reading their script, and I'm not even a playwright," Gosselin said. "It was a surreal experience. Luckily he loved it."

That led to a meeting with Mackintosh "in his very plush Times Square office" while Mackintosh was in town for the 25th anniversary of "Phantom of the Opera," Gosselin said.

The pair spent the next three hours working and planning for a staged reading of the script with hand-picked Broadway performers, as well as local actors selected by Gosselin, taking on the roles of the headmistress and naughty schoolgirls of St. Godley's Academy for Young Ladies.

Fellow North Country Union High School graduate Adam Podd serves as the musical director, and locally grown actors Brian Kilday, Kyla Paul and Brandy Best Ong took roles.

Broadway shows can take anywhere from a year to many, many years to come to fruition, but Gosselin is hoping for sooner rather than later. He said there's an enormous amount of development work to be done before anyone even discusses money. The show has "an enormous flopping history," Gosselin said, and he has to have done the work ahead of time to convince backers it's worth the money.

On Broadway, the cheapest productions cost $15 million, Gosselin said. And backers take a risk that could result in the show closing after one week, losing them a lot of money, or running for 25 years, bringing in millions.

Gosselin is working with well-known designers on the project. Chris March, of Project Runway fame, designs the costumes, and Beowulf Borritt is the set designer.

Of March, Gosselin said, "This show is perfect for him. This is a guy who's made wigs 50 feet tall. He's brilliant."

Borritt is the go-to guy for "balancing reality and complete abstraction," Gosselin said. "Moby Dick" is a great project for him because "it's a bizarre concept that's never going to happen in reality."

"I want to turn the theater into the pool," Gosselin said. "That's not something that's done every day."

Gosselin said he's enormously grateful to his parents, Michael Gosselin and Michelle Poutre, for helping him financially while he's embarking on this grand adventure.

While home, Gosselin is helping students at North Country on plays they're set to stage this week. Gosselin said people like Cheri Skurdall and Anne Hamilton at the high school are professionals who could work wherever they'd like, but choose to teach students instead, something for which he's grateful as well.

"I'm ready to get back to the city and get back to work," Gosselin said. "I'm just itching to direct it."

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