Mirette
A family musical about the unusual friendship between a strong-willed girl and a tightrope walker who's lost his nerve.
Show Essentials
8
Roles
G
Rated
1
Act

Full Synopsis

Act One

The City of Paris in 1899. A young girl sits high above the city, ready for a new adventure ("Sitting on the Edge"). She disappears as her mother, Madame Gateau, enters doing chores. Madame Gateau introduces her hotel that is special for theatre people who need a place to stay. The guests appear one at a time and introduce themselves: Mme. Rouspenskaya, a Russian folk singer; Tabac the juggler; Clouk and Claire, the acrobatic duo; Gaby the aspiring ballerina; and Camembert the comic. They are all very happy at Madame Guteau's hotel and love her daughter Mirette. Mirette enjoys hearing all of their stories and doesn't mind waiting on them during their stay. They depend on her ("Madame Gateau's Colorful Hotel").

Later that day, Claire confides in Mirette that she wants to give up performing and move to the country. She is envious of Mirette's secure and safe life, although Mirette can't understand this – she longs for adventure and asks Mme. Rouspenskaya how someone knows whether they have special talent. She replies that they must be discovered and that the talent must be nurtured. Mirette and Rouspenskaya wonder what might lie in Mirette's future ("Maybe").

As Mirette is working at the front desk, a dark and mysterious man enters. His name is Paul Bellini, and he gives three months rent in advance for a tiny room in the basement. Mirette questions him and learns that he is not an actor but travels frequently. We learn from Mirette that her father died in Brazil after leaving her and her mother. Paul is unsettled by the girl's directness and after she shows him to his room, he asks her to leave. Alone, he reflects on his life and his need to keep running away ("Someone in the Mirror").

The lights come up on Rouspenskaya, who is practicing a cappella ("Irkutsk"). During the song, Rouspenskaya is continually interrupted by Camembert, the older clown, who has bought a porcelain box for Gaby. He is smitten with her but he gets no attention from her. Madame adds that Gaby cannot hate him because that would require her to think about him and she does not. Camembert agrees and adds that they are both too old and ugly for love. In a rage, Rouspenskaya calls him a peasant and leaves.

Mirette is hanging laundry outside when she sees Bellini practicing a tightrope walk in the courtyard. He stops when he sees her watching, but she asks him to continue and requests that she get a chance to walk on the wire. He responds that she will only fall. She steps up, but after one step, jumps down. Bellini refuses to help her and leaves, but she is determined and practices all day, finally mastering three whole steps.

The next morning, all of the artists are watching from their windows what has become a daily occurrence: Bellini practices his wire and Mirette watches, unobserved, until he leaves. She then hops on the wire and practices what she learned ("Practice"). Bellini catches her and forbids her to go near his wire. He retreats. She continues. He returns and this time reprimands her, but she shows him what she can do. He watches and is impressed. He looks at her feet and says that she is blessed with a rare foot. She asks him to teach her, but he refuses. Paul tells Mirette that the high wire is a life choice, a passion and an obsession, but Mirette still begs for him to teach her. Finally, he agrees ("Learning Who You Are").

Now at the Music Hall, Tabac is juggling knives and misses the handle on one, instantly cutting his hand. He is promptly fired and realizes that he cannot afford his rent. Madame Gateau gives him an extra week to find work. Meanwhile, all of the artists are gathered to congratulate Gaby on getting a solo dance. Everyone brings a small gift, including Camembert with his porcelain box. Gaby is very grateful, and everyone is happy until Tabac announces that he has been fired. They all try to encourage him to keep trying, as any artist must do ("The Show Goes On"). The excitement of the party is interrupted by Bellini, who bursts in and demands some peace and quiet. Just then, Madame Gateau calls Mirette for bed, and the party disperses. Mirette confesses to her mother that she wishes to be a wirewalker and that Paul Bellini is going to teach her. At first, her mother is concerned but agrees that as long as the wire remains low, there is no harm; Mirette describes how she feels on the wire, and her mother tells her that the life of an artist is a difficult and sad one. She reminds Mirette how lucky she is that when she grows up, she will be able to run a boarding house ("Feet upon the Ground").

While Bellini sets up the wire, Clouk and Claire perform a few acrobatic tricks. Bellini and Mirette begin their first lesson. All is going well for Mirette; she is a disciplined student. Bellini therefore rewards her with a higher wire. She becomes afraid, but his inspiring, firm words convince her to walk. The artists observe from their windows ("If You Choose to Walk upon the Wire"). Just as she begins the walk, her mother cries out to her. Mirette loses her balance and falls, grasping the wire and then gently falling to the ground. A furious Madame Gateau sends Mirette to her room and confronts Bellini. Both believe that they know what is best for Mirette ("She Isn't You").

Act Two

Mirette and Bellini continue to practice on the high wire. Madame Gateau calls for Mirette – Bellini and Mirette quickly hide. The artists join her mother in calling for her, wanting Mirette to watch their new acts. Gaby then enters and tells the group about her new act and costume, where she plays the Great God Pan. Gaby leads them all as they begin to play out her new act ("The Great God Pan"). As they all applaud and cheer Gaby, Max enters. Max is a promoter of talent who helped all of the artistes get their acts together. After greeting his friends and giving Mirette a surprise gift, he probes the presence of The Great Bellini. They all reminisce about the Great Bellini; the greatest hire-wire walker of all time. He and the artists recall all of his daring tricks on the wire and are shocked to learn that the dreadful man living in the basement is the Great Bellini. They wonder what has happened to this magnificent man to make him so unpleasant, so afraid and so alone ("The Great Bellini").

Upon hearing this, Mirette approaches Paul and wonders why he did not tell her that he was the Great Bellini. He denies his identity, but eventually confesses that he was the Great Bellini. He does reveal, however, that something happened to change him forever. Mirette offers to help him if he would just open up to her ("Sometimes You Just Need Someone"). Bellini is outwardly unmoved by Mirette's words and asks her to leave; he cannot teach her anymore. Mirette fights back and in a burst of anger, Bellini yells at Mirette. She runs away. Feeling bad, Bellini tries to call her back but she is gone ("Sometimes You Just Need Someone – Reprise").

Some days later, Mme. Rouspenskaya is with Mirette and her mother, but Mirette is unresponsive. Gaby enters in an expensive outfit and announces that she is moving to a more spacious apartment, much to the disapproval of Camembert. At the same moment, Tabac tries to sneak by when Madame Gateau once again demands his rent. He admits that he cannot make the payments, and she has no choice but to let him go. The others wish to help him but fear that he will never be able to pay them back. The artists reflect on the difficulties of a life on the stage ("Madame Gateau's Desolate Hotel"). Bellini enters to announce that he is leaving. Madame Gateau demands that he give Mirette an explanation and calls for her. Mirette enters, and Bellini is shocked and frightened by her appearance and movements. He informs her of the decision and then reveals his reason for being unable to teach her: one day, in the middle of a difficult act that he had performed hundreds of times, he was overcome with fear and had to crawl off of the wire. She must find a teacher that can do the same tricks that she has to learn. Mirette leaves. She goes to the wire in the courtyard and cuts it down, an act that seems to wake Bellini up. He realizes what he must do. He calls Max over and tells him to gather the necessary materials for him to walk across the roofs of Paris that evening. Everyone is shocked. He says that he must do this for Mirette.

We transition to the wire. Max steps forward to gather a crowd for Bellini's walk. As he takes his first steps, it is clear that he has been overcome with fear – Mirette knows what she must do. She proceeds to climb the tower and joins Bellini, inching slowly towards him. They take hands and all of his faith and courage are restored. He lifts Mirette upon his shoulder as a huge banner falls behind them that readins, "Mirette and Bellini! Wirewalkers Extrordinaire! Stupendous Feats!" ("Finale").

Casting

Casting

Cast Size: Small (Up to 10 performers)
Cast Type: Children
Dance Requirements: None

Character Breakdown

Madame Gateau
The proprietor of a small hotel in Paris that caters to Music Hall Artistes. Cautious, pessimistic, and extremely protective of her daughter Mirette.
Gender: female
Age: 40 to 50
Vocal range top: E5
Vocal range bottom: F3
Mirette
Madame Gaetau's daughter and assistant. Dreams of becoming a circus performer. Forms a close connection with Bellini.
Gender: female
Age: 9 to 12
Vocal range top: D5
Vocal range bottom: F3
Bellini
A retired wire walker and the newest resident at Madame Gateau's hotel. Dark, brooding, and private about his past, but passionate about his craft.
Gender: male
Age: 30 to 40
Vocal range top: F4
Vocal range bottom: G2
Tabac
An "Artiste," juggler, and jack-of-all-trades. Desperately poor and down on his luck.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 30
Vocal range top: Ab4
Vocal range bottom: G2
Madame Rouspenskaya
An Artiste and Russian singer with a grand manner. She always refuses to reveal her age.
Gender: female
Age: 40 to 55
Vocal range top: G5
Vocal range bottom: F#3
Clouke
An "Artiste" and acrobat. Shares an extremely close connection with Claire, his partner and lover.
Gender: male
Age: 20 to 30
Vocal range top: Ab4
Vocal range bottom: G2
Claire
An "Artiste" and an acrobat. Shares an extremely close connection with Clouke, her partner and lover.
Gender: female
Age: 20 to 30
Vocal range top: F5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Gaby
An "Artiste" and dancer-mime. Young, beautiful, and flirtatious.
Gender: female
Age: 18 to 25
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: G3
Camembert
An "Artiste" and sad clown. In love with Gaby and constantly tries to let her know.
Gender: male
Age: 40 to 50
Vocal range top: G4
Vocal range bottom: G2
Max
Full Song List
Mirette: Madame Gateau's Colorful Hotel
Mirette: Someone in the Mirror
Mirette: Practicing
Mirette: Learning Who You Are
Mirette: Feet Upon the Ground
Mirette: If You Choose to Walk Upon the Wire
Mirette: The Great God Pan
Mirette: The Great Bellini
Mirette: Sometimes You Just Need Someone
Mirette: Finale

Show History

Inspiration

Mirette is a musical adaptation of the acclaimed children's book, Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully.

Elizabeth Diggs, a college classmate and friend of McCully's, saw the dramatic and musical potential in the poignant tale of teacher and student. Diggs asked Tom Jones of The Fantasticks fame whether he knew of any composers or lyricists who might want to try his or her hand at Mirette. As it happened, Jones and his writing partner, Harvey Schmidt, were in search of a new project. Since the team had already written Collette Collage, about the famed French author, all felt that they would be a good fit for the Parisian flavor and setting of Mirette.

The creative team set to work on the musical in earnest in the summer of 1993, expanding McCully's 32-page book into a more complex and layered tale that was appropriate for theatre audiences.

Productions

Mirette premiered at the 1994 Sundance Festival and was developed there again over the following summer.

Goodspeed Opera House then produced Mirette at the Norma Terris Theater, their smaller stage, from August 1, through 25, 1996.

Mirette was then featured in the Festival of New Musicals in 1996, sponsored by the National Alliance for Musical Theatre.

The show was returned to Goodspeed and was produced on the main stage from July 1, through September 18, 1998.

Despite the Jones/Schmidt pedigree, Mirette was not recorded or widely performed after its Goodspeed production. However, in 2005, it finally received its New York premiere at the York Theater's popular "Musicals in Mufti" series, with Robert Cuccioli of Jekyll and Hyde fame in the pivotal role of high-wire artist, Bellini.


Mirette was then featured in the Princeton Festival in New Jersey in 2008.

Cultural Influence

  • Songs from Mirette are featured on the album, The Show Goes On: A Portfolio of Theater Songs by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt.
  • Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt are best known for having written The Fantasticks, which is the world's longest running musical.
  • Mirette on the Highwire earned its author, Emily Arnold McCully, the Caldecott Medal for "the most distinguished American picture book" in the year of its publication.
  • In 2000, McCully published a sequel to Mirette on the High Wire, entitled Mirette and Belinni Cross Niagra Falls.

Trivia

  • In addition to being a playwriting professor at NYU, book writer, Elizabeth Diggs, is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and an L.A. Drama-Logue Award for playwriting.
  • NAMT, whose Festival of New Musicals featured Mirette in 1996, has nurtured the creation, development, production and presentation of new musicals since 1985.

Critical Reaction

"Jaunty melodies... take the audience along into the upper atmosphere... reflects (the authors') penchant for finding the music in fairy tale pairings."
– New York Times

"Pleasant... and handsome-looking, with Dwight Richard Odle's charming, 19th century-inspired costumes and his multilayered rose and violet storybook set.... Schmidt and Jones' expertly tuneful songs fare well with musical director Diane King Vann and live orchestra."
– LA Times

Curriculum Connection

Billing

Based on the picture book, Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCullyo

Requirements

You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.
MIRETTE
 
Book by
ELIZABETH DIGGS
Music by
HARVEY SCHMIDT
Lyrics by
TOM JONES
Based upon the Picture Book "Mirette on the High Wire" by
Emily Arnold McCully
 
Originally produced by
The Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, CT
Michael P. Price, Executive Producer
 
The names of the Composer, Lyricist and Bookwriter shall be equal in size, type, coloring, boldness and prominence. No billing shall appear in type larger or more prominent than the billing to the Authors except the title of the play.
ADDITIONAL CREDIT: When using the full orchestration, the following credit must also appear:
Orchestrations by LARRY MOORE
The videotaping or other video or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited

Included Materials

ItemQuantity Included
LIBRETTO/VOCAL BOOK12
PIANO VOCAL SCORE ACT 11
PIANO VOCAL SCORE ACT 21

Production Resources

Resource
HOW DOES THE SHOW GO ON-10/CS
HOW DOES THE SHOW GO ON?
LOGO PACK
LOGO PACK DIGITAL
REFERENCE RECORDING
STREAMING LICENSE
STREAMING LICENSE
TRANSPOSITIONS-ON-DEMAND

STANDARD ORCHESTRATION

InstrumentationDoubling
PIANO
PIANO 2

ALTERNATE ORCHESTRATION

InstrumentationDoubling
ALT: PIANO CONDUCTOR ACT 2
ALT:BASS
ALT:DRUMS
ALT:HARP
ALT:HORN
ALT:KEYBOARD 2 CELESTE , PIANO
ALT:KEYBOARD 3 BELLS , CHIMES , MARIMBA , TYMPANI , VIBRAPHONE , XYLOPHONE
ALT:PIANO CONDUCTOR ACT 1
ALT:REED BASS CLARINET , CLARINET , FLUTE , TENOR SAXOPHONE