A Roman Holiday in San Francisco
Producers Paul Blake and Mike Bosner, with director Marc Bruni—the illustrious team behind BEAUTIFUL – The Carole King Musical—are back in San Francisco again, and this time, they’re bringing the pre-Broadway premiere of Roman Holiday – The Musical, based on the 1953 Academy Award®-winning film. SHN audiences will get a first look and be part of the musical-making-process before this new production hits the main stage on Broadway.
Paul: It’s a different Roman Holiday because it is a musical Roman Holiday. We aren’t making anything better because how can you improve on this classic? Instead, it will be a Cinderella story, in reverse—which makes wonderful musicals—where a lot of the narrative will be told in song. There also will be no irony—although irony is very popular in our culture right now—because we love the material and want to deliver it in a heartfelt way. The same can be said with Cole Porter’s music: there’s no mucking around with it; it is very straight-forward because his songs have enormous power just as the story of Roman Holiday does, too. Essentially, we take things that we love, we trust the material, and we don’t wink at the audience; audiences tend to respond to that.
Tell us about the development of a musical and where San Francisco lands in this process.
Marc: Trying out in San Francisco continues a time honored theatrical tradition of going to a city outside New York to test the material before opening in New York. No matter how much rehearsal you do in the rehearsal room, the real work can’t start until you put the show in front of an audience and find out if they are receiving the story in the way you intended. The audience is the missing character, essential to the experience of live theatre, and the SF audiences are among the best in the country.
Why San Francisco?
Marc: I found on BEAUTIFUL that the San Francisco audiences were intelligent, supportive, and generous with both their support and their discerning instincts.
Paul: I’ve tried shows out in other towns for other reasons, but when I go to San Francisco, I personally just feel like it embraces me and I feel very safe there. The treat of coming to this city is that once we get the show up and it’s playing, there is a really intelligent audience that wants to see what you’ve done and they know quality when they see it. Hearing their feedback feels like we’re talking to someone we know instead of strangers—that’s invaluable.
Mike: One of the reason why we’re coming back to San Francisco is because we have had so much success with BEAUTIFUL—and I’m not just talking about the success of the show, which, by the way, is very successful (thank you, San Francisco!)—but, with the creative development of the show. This process is for people who love to see theatre, so if there’s anything that’s not working in the room and on that stage, we want to hear it in front of a very knowledgeable audience and make it better for you. San Francisco does that for us.
You talk a lot about SF audiences being part of the process, can you explain how exactly that works?
Paul: We sit in the audience and learn the sounds around the one seat we’ve each chosen for the whole process—listening for the laughs, the coughs, and the silences. We, as creative producers, are listening to not only our show, but also to the audience, because the audience becomes part of the show. The show by itself is not just a show; you need the audience to complete it because the audience is different every night just as live, musical theater is different every night, too.
Mike: The audience really embraces being part of the process. If I may be so bold, SF audiences love that they’re the first people to see this and that they can help inform what happens with the show. They really embrace that as part of what you offer at SHN, and we thank you for it and we applaud you for it. That’s why we keep coming back because San Francisco fosters the creative energy—not only for us, but also for the audiences, which allows them to get in on that process. It’s a very magical experience going through that with SHN’s patrons.
Paul: We also use surveys. For BEAUTIFUL, I was amazed at how many people want to talk to you, and we learned a lot by seeing this feedback in writing that solidified what we had been thinking. Surveys told us a lot of what we intuited, but seeing it in writing made a big difference.
Marc: The process of previews in SF and then the subsequent rehearsal process before the NY run allowed us to take the feedback and ideas we received from seeing the show in front of smart, supportive people and use that information to bring the show to a new level. I can’t wait to share what we’ve been up to in the rehearsal room with the audiences of San Francisco. I think they are in for a treat.
Besides working on the show, what else are you hoping to do while in San Francisco?
Marc: I always enjoy the restaurants and I can’t wait to go back and visit some of my favorite spots down in the Mission and elsewhere around the city.
Mike: We’d be happy to take any restaurant recommendations because we’re usually holed up in the theatre, which is a pleasure, by the way—we love that.
Paul: The terrible thing is that when we’re out of town with the show, we could be in Topeka. Besides having a smart, urban audience in this cosmopolitan city, we wouldn’t know we’re in San Francisco because we go from the hotel to the theatre, to a restaurant, back to the theatre, then back to the hotel, then go to sleep, then wake up, go back to work, and repeat the whole thing again, so there’s not much time for anything. But, they don’t serve your kind of food in Topeka!
ROMAN HOLIDAY – THE MUSICAL is now playing at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre, May 23 through June 18. Don’t miss out on your chance to enjoy this holiday in San Francisco before it heads to Broadway—buy your tickets today at shnsf.com.