There are many roads to Broadway. “The Phantom of the Opera” was shipped from London. “Les Miserables” was birthed as a French concept album. “Wicked” was developed in workshops before getting a test run in San Francisco. But if the team behind “The Circus in Winter” has its way (and if enough money can be raised and script kinks worked out), the Ball-State-University-incubated musical might be the first Tony award winner conceived as a collaborative class project.
The attraction of circus life and a glimpse into some of its secrets is at the core of a brand new musical, “The Circus in Winter,” which is now enjoying a fully-staged and costumed workshop production at Goodspeed Musicals’ Norma TerrisTheater in Chester, CT, through November 16. The traveling, nomadic life typical of the circuses in the first half of the twentieth century mirrors the journey that the musical version has experienced from its origins at Ball State University in Indiana.
Sometimes it doesn’t take long for word of a good new musical to spread no matter where a show is launched. “Yes, we got on a fast track,” composer and lyricist Ben Clark said during a recent interview. “I’ve met people who have waited eight or 10 years (for a professional production). “But we had so much support right at the start,” he said of working on the show at Ball State as an undergraduate. “It just seems to capture people’s attention.”
Have you ever just wanted to run away…to the circus? Would owning a circus be high on your to-do list? Author Cathy Day wrote a book, “The Circus in Winter,” about her family and her hometown, Peru, Indiana, deemed the Circus Capitol of the World and the winter headquarters of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus.
Her story cycle of 11 tales of the Big Top has been tumble-saulted into a brand new musical, of all things colorful and creative — and a strange and most intriguing tale it is. Goodspeed Musicals is its resting place — at least through Nov. 16.
Running away to join the circus is one of the great romantic ideals. “The Circus in Winter,” a new musical about how circus folk spend their downtime, has run away from Indiana to seek fame and fortune on the East Coast.