Back in 2007, Sandra Dutton’s original musical “Just A Matter of Time” (JAMOT) was staged at Boothbay Playhouse. She had tweaked it a bit after it’d premiered at a Broadway Actor’s Equity Showcase some years earlier.
Next week, the curtain is going up on JAMOT a third time in Catskill, New York where Sandra and husband/producer Wayne Sheridan have made their home for the past eight years – except most summers when they return to Boothbay Harbor.
This show is pure Dutton, laced with visual puns, animals, children and adventure. As one of the characters says, “Ideas are thoughts that want to go places.”
And Dutton, a most interesting character herself, knows all about thoughts really going places. She’s an award-winning children’s author, artist and playwright who’s taken readers and art lovers on innumerable flights of imagination.
“JAMOT” opens at Bridge Street Theater this Thursday, Nov. 14 for a three-day run. Dutton said it differs from the previous incarnations in a few ways. She has made some changes in this, her favorite original musical. She has given the characters more, she’s written new lyrics for songs, and the show has all new choreography. This production also marks her directorial debut – and she’s loving it.
Here’s the synopsis of JAMOT as it appears on the Bridge Street Theater website, in case you’ve forgotten: “What happens when Time disappears? You’ll find out in this hilarious romp through a fantasy world that may be more real than anyone could imagine. When young schoolgirl Meg is told by her caring and worried grandmother that she has lost her curiosity, she is propelled into a world where Time has disappeared, knocked out in a fight with the Lop-Eared Rabbit. Meg is tasked by the desperate characters in this world to find Time before it completely runs out and everything disappears. Join Meg in this compelling adventure through the realms of the imagination and science.”
This new version’s scenery features 16 Sandra Dutton watercolor paintings that will be projected onto a screen onstage with an overhead projector.
“I really want the audience to feel like they are going into a story,” Dutton said. “The first image is a map of the territory so the audiences will know where they are. There’s Grandmother’s garden, the Bank of Time, and other places.”
Other characters include the River Rat, the Sheep, Duck, Time’s Keeper, Beaver, the Rhymester, 3 Teachers, Mayor Goose, Time, Rabbit, Rabbit’s Teacher, Rabbit’s Shadow, Possum, the Pig Who Stole Time, Marching Band members, a couple of Loan Sharks, Walrus, and dancers of various ages.
Here’s a classic Dutton scene: River Rat pushes a cart onstage that is holding a physical collection of his thoughts and as each thought becomes an idea it is realized through a child dancer who embodies each one.
I remember finding the entire show absolutely enchanting because of the clever dialogue, the Lewis Carroll vibe, and the genius that is Sandra Dutton. This version should be as entertaining and engaging as its past incarnations.
Why does Dutton keep returning to JAMOT to tweak dialogue, visuals and music? “I just love it. I love the nonsense and playing with language,” said the longtime fan of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear and the fantasy novels “The Phantom Tollbooth” and “Wind in the Willows.”
Her fondness for these genres was cultivated from childhood. She was blessed with two creative parents, including an actor father she vividly recalls “walking around reciting things while acting them out.” At the dinner table, she and her siblings would sit around table imitating their teachers.
Scott Petito is the composer and music director for the new show. He’s also been a producer, engineer, bassist and multi-instrumentalist who’s played on innumerable recordings for the likes of James Taylor, Pete Seeger, Jack DeJohnette, Don Byron and Dave Brubeck.
“Scott played with the songs. Some of them now have a Celtic flavor to them,” Dutton said. “We all loved telling stories.”
Rachel Kappell is choreographer and Michelle Rogers is the costumer. Sandra said an experienced fight choreographer came on board for the scene between Rabbit and his Shadow.
“I’m loving directing. It’s an all local cast from Hudson and Catskill. I like to listen to what the actors think about a particular scene or about improving conversations.”
The concepts of time and scientific theory are alluring subjects for Dutton, making the Catskill area a perfect place for her to land; there’s a centuries old interest in time in that part of New York. Author Washington Irving used the Catskill mountains as the setting for his 1819 story “Rip Van Winkle.” Visitors and residents have long enjoyed the stature of the fabled Dutchman who disappeared with the ghosts of Henry Hudson’s crew for 20 years. And a bridge was named after him.
Post-production, Dutton looks forward to returning to writing projects that include a children’s picture book, a novel and returning to Boothbay Harbor next summer.
“JAMOT” is a Dutton & Sheridan Creative production.