Seven years after its premiere run, Paragon Park , the Musical is making its return to The Company Theatre stage just in time for the summer arts season. Co-written by Hingham, Massachusetts, resident Zoe Bradford, The Company Theatre’s co-founder, artistic director and president, and Holbrook, Massachusetts, resident and actor Michael Hammond, the show debuted to sold-out crowds in 2012. The story begins in 1985 with the dramatic auction of the last of the remaining piece of the Park – the Carousel. The audience is then taken back to 1905 in Hull, Massachusetts, where the opening of Paragon Park created a lively and fascinating summer scene for the Boston elite and thrill-seekers of all ages.
“Initially we set out to create a historical musical about a beloved South Shore landmark, but the project quickly transcended that,” said Bradford. “What we have is a musical that is lush and romantic, with characters that face challenges that are still relevant to today. The show can speak to anyone who has memories of an amusement park or a county fair, and to anyone who is young at heart or has followed a dream.”
Bradford and Hammond were purposeful and methodical in their research. They conducted hundreds of interviews, examined countless historical photos, and went on-location to ensure an accurate representation of Hull in its heyday. While many may remember the famed carousel, few might recall the inspiration behind the destination.
Whaling mogul George A. Dodge, who will be played by Hammond in this year’s run, dreamt up Paragon Park, but could never have imagined luring the likes of Hollywood elite (Judy Garland) and political dynasties (the Kennedys) to the oceanfront spectacle. According to anecdotal history, Paragon Park was the model for Epcot Center; it has been said that Walt Disney was enamored with its multicultural attractions and appeal.
“Co-writing with Zoe and Adam was a dream come true, and I got to watch that dream come true every night from the audience,” said Hammond. “This time, having the opportunity to play George Dodge on stage is more thrilling than I could have imagined. I am inspired by the adults and children in the cast. Being able to witness their enthusiasm as they say their lines for the very first time and breathe new life into the dialogue is exhilarating. To hear a cast member say that they love a certain line or love playing their character is quite rewarding.”
The musical drama twists and turns through a fictional forbidden romance set in this dazzling backdrop, rich in historical context. Main character Tilly (played by Hanover resident Macy Hohenleitner, a theatre student at Goldsmiths, University of London) is a proper Bostonian who meets Italian immigrant gondolier Rinaldo (played by Jared Troilo, a sought-after actor on stages across New England and in New York City) when he is wrongfully accused of stealing her purse. Historical figures woven into the plot come along for the ride, including Mayor “Honey” Fitzgerald (mayor of Boston from 1910 to 1913), Cardinal Cushing, Floretta Vining (self-proclaimed mayor of Hull) and Rose Stone, who with her family, led the resurrection of the park after a fire destroyed it in 1963.
Winner of the coveted Moss Hart Award, presented by the New England Theatre Conference in 2012, Paragon Park the Musical has been The Company Theatre’s most requested show to bring back. Collaborators are excited about the small changes they have made to tighten up the script and the addition of a number in the second act performed by 1920s bathing beauties called “Summer Peach.” Original choreographer Sally Ashton Forrest is taking a fresh approach to the musical staging, and is able to elaborate on moments there was not time to richly develop in the premiere production. The vintage show within a show, Hades to Paradise Spectacular, has developed in rehearsal into a fascinating look at turn of the twentieth-century morality entertainments.
Paragon Park the Musical will be directed by the team of Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman, with original music by Adam Brooks (Brookline, Massachusetts), orchestrations by Jeri Sykes, choreography by Sally Ashton Forrest, and musical direction by Steve Bass.
Additional set designs are being created by Ryan Barrow and James Valentin, lighting design by Adam Clark, and expansive costume design by Paula Ninestein, which reflects four different decades. The original on-stage carousel designed by Bob Grazioso will be returning, this time with an additionally featured horse painted by Hingham artist Kate Gifford.
Paragon Park the Musical opens Friday, July 26, and runs through Sunday, August 18. Tickets are $47; a percentage of each ticket sold will be donated to Friends of the Paragon Carousel. For a complete list of show dates and times, to purchase tickets, or for more information, visitwww.companytheatre.com or call the box office at 781-871-2787.
About The Company Theatre
The Company Theatre entertains, enlightens, and energizes audiences with high-quality productions. Five theatrical productions and several special event programs sell 35,000 tickets annually. Through its Academy, The Company Theatre inspires students from young to old in the art of the performing arts. For information on programming or classes, visit www.companytheatre.com.