Re-open Your Theatre with Mirette!

Re-open Your Theatre with Mirette!

Here’s the perfect post-COVID 19 musical to reopen your theater.

It’s Mirette, with a score by lyricist Tom Jones and composer Harvey Schmidt of The Fantasticks fame.

If the title sounds familiar, you probably remember from your childhood Mirette on the High Wire, Emily Arnold McCully’s picture book. Although it only sported 800 words, Jones, Schmidt and bookwriter Elizabeth Diggs expanded it into a genuine musical with 15 songs. They also added some very colorful characters – a diva, a dancer, a clown, a juggler and two acrobats – who are right at home with their Parisian locale.

Leave it to Wayne Bryan, the Producing Director of Music Theatre Wichita, to find Mirette and stage it with the same style and aplomb that he’s brought to Kansas’s largest city since 1988.

Bryan has often had dozens of cast members populating his vast stage. Now, with social distancing still a distinct consideration, he wanted a small show that wouldn’t force performers to be too close to each other just-in-case.

Luckily, Mirette only requires a cast of 10.

Similarly speaking, although Bryan usually has an orchestra of 20 or more in his pit, he wanted his musicians to be protected by social distancing as well.

Once again, Mirette proved itself ideal, for it only requires two pianists.

Bryan was of course concerned about his customers, too. Although his musicals usually play in a vast 2,200-seat theater, he was taking no chances and put Mirette on a substantially larger stage at a nearby convention hall. Folding chairs were positioned on the floor so that theatergoers could be close to the action while still allowing them the chance to spread out to their health’s content.

They were certainly contented with Mirette, truly a show, as the expression goes, “for children of all ages.” Kids related to Mirette, a young tween who’s drawn to danger and wants to walk a high wire without worrying about risk, which children seldom see. Conversely, adults identified with her mother, Mrs. Gateau, who feared her daughter would fall and be seriously injured if not killed.

If Mrs. Gateau, who rents rooms to theatricals, had known that Mirette would be so taken with her new tenant Paul’s practicing on the high wire, she wouldn’t have taken him in. That Paul is surly is another reason; he’s haunted by a recent failure and isn’t all that certain that he can work his way back on the wire.

As much as Mirette wants to learn, Paul is not the type to teach a young kid what he knows until he sees that she’s a True Believer. He gives her instructions; she gives him a reason to live.

Eventually Mirette and Paul become a high-wire team that becomes the rage of Paris. Thus Mirette offers a wonderful theme: a child and an adult who work together can benefit from the other.

Are you asking “Where am I going to find a guy who can walk a high wire, let alone a little girl?” Ah, but theater often relies on illusion. How many times have we seen people “drinking” out of glasses in which there’s not any drop to drink?

So Bryan didn’t set up a wire but simply had a stage-long platform. Both performers walked on it, outstretching their arms, wiggling them back and forth to suggest attempts at balancing themselves as they walked from stem to stern. If some Cirque du Soleil performers had attended, they might have been disappointed, but Wichita’s theatergoers and Bryan were spared the worry of performers falling and breaking their necks (or worse).

Because Paul must be lithe on the “wire,” it’s a great role for a dancer who’s ready to become a musical theater leading man (as Michael Dikegoros proved he was). Mirette is the next logical step for any girl who’s played Annie, but here too Bryan was lucky to find Kaitlyn Lemon, who’s a gymnast when she isn’t an actress.

Mirette was written with an intermission; it follows the powerful song “She Isn’t You,” in which both Paul and Madame Gateau each make that point about Mirette. But Bryan wanted to eliminate any chance of illness and cut it. Because the show is a modest 97 minutes long, his audience wasn’t overtaxed.

Let’s face it: COVID-19 has caused the management at every theater to restart with a show that won’t break the bank, and Mirette fits that description. How fitting that Jones and Schmidt wrote a production number for it called “The Show Goes On.” Indeed, at Music Theatre Wichita it did; now it can with you, too.

This article was written by guest contributor Peter Filichia.