Meet the all-female creative team bringing this all-new musical to the stage for the first time
Celebrate girls. That is just one of the things you can expect when American Girl Live hits the stage this December to begin its nationwide tour. It’s also the mantra of the all-female creative team behind this entirely new theatrical.
“Director Gina Rattan and I both felt strongly from the get-go that this show needed to have an all-female creative team, both to honor the values of the brand as well as to present a strong message—that every girl is the hero of her own story!” says producer Simone Gianfrancesco. “Who better to bring this message to life than a passionate group of women, aiming to inspire the next generation of creative thought leaders?”
“It’s important to understand that this is rare. There are all-male or male-dominated creative teams on most projects no matter the subject matter,” says Rattan. “American Girl, a company for and inspired by girls, cared enough to ensure that women were the stewards of bringing this story about the positive power of girlhood to life for young girls everywhere.”
With that guiding force in mind and the promise of a diverse all-female cast also in the mix, American Girl Live secured a group of fiercely talented women who are ready to bring this show to life! In addition to Gianfrancesco and Rattan, the team also includes writer and lyricist Sandy Rustin, composer Meg Zervoulis, and choreographer nicHi douglas.
This production marks an important shift in the industry. “If you go back in history to [American Girl character] Maryellen’s time period of 1950, or Melody’s or even Julie’s in the 60s and 70s…there were no women being hired for large-scale theatrical creative teams. There weren’t many female book writers, lyricists or composers, directors or designers,” says Rustin. “So, on the shoulders of the women who have the paved the way for us, our team aims to continue to prove that women belong in positions of power and creativity. And what better world to create together, than the girl-centric, girl-positive world of American Girl?”
So, what can we expect from this female-driven show? Well, without revealing too much too soon, we’re excited to share some insider glimpses into story, characters and more…
This Broadway-style show is set at Camp American Girl, a fictitious sleep-away camp. “The story is about the summer adventure of five campers, their counselor, and their American Girl friends,” says Rustin, who divulges that there will be six iconic American Girl characters interwoven into the experience through song and dance. “The experiences the girls have at camp help them to understand that the lessons American Girl characters learn from their experiences are just as relevant today as they were in their time. If a girl in 2018 can carry those lessons in her heart, there’s no challenge or obstacle she can’t overcome!”
Gianfrancesco adds, “Our production will provide girls with positive examples of friends learning from each other and celebrating each other’s strengths. It’s our hope that these lessons will extend beyond the performance and into the hearts of the audience.”
From these stories of positivity and perseverance, it’s entirely possible you may find yourself not only emotionally touched, but also humming a catchy tune all the way home from American Girl Live. “Our intended goal with the score for this musical is to involve styles of music that will be recognizable to all, while also fitting each American Girl’s characteristics and personality,” says composer Zervoulis. “We’ll also have a real ‘Broadway’ number or two, to honor the tradition of American Musical Theater.”
Choreographer douglas assures us that contemporary dance moves will play a prominent part in the show. “When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with all the latest dance moves,” says douglas. “I’ll be incorporating some trendy steps into the choreography, so the girls know that the people on stage are a part of the world they’re living in today. I want them to know that I know what’s up!”
With all this in mind, why is a “live” experience more memorable than other forms of entertainment, for the those who will attend this show?
“Live creates a sense of community that is unparalleled. There is strength in the shared experience that girls and families will gain from attending American Girl Live together,” says Gianfrancesco. “American Girl encourages girls to face their fears, overcome obstacles and learn from their mistakes by responding with optimism and resilience. What a perfect analogy for what we do in theatre! We work in real time. Once the curtain rises, there is no starting over, no matter what happens. If mistakes arise or things don’t go according to plan, we need to adapt and stay positive.”
Rustin shares, “My goal is that the audience —whether they’re nine-year-old American Girl mega-fans or grandparents along for a family outing —will recognize the integrity of the characters on stage, recognize elements of themselves being reflected in the story, and connect with the universal truths that are being presented.”
In the end though, the production reinforces the empowering message of American Girl. “My guiding principle for this piece is one of the brand’s everlasting truths,” says Rattan. “What’s good for girls is good for all of us.”