Children's Musical By Stamford Playwright Comes To New Canaan

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A play co-authored by Bill Squier, a Stamford playwright, will be performed at the Summer Theatre of New Canaan beginning Saturday, June 14.
A play co-authored by Bill Squier, a Stamford playwright, will be performed at the Summer Theatre of New Canaan beginning Saturday, June 14. Photo Credit: Contributed

STAMFORD, Conn. – Stamford playwright Bill Squier has had projects produced on stages from coast to coast. Now he’s excited that his newest piece will be performed right up the road.

Squier co-authored “Merrilee Mannerly: A Magnificent New Musical,” which will begin a monthlong run at the Summer Theatre of New Canaan on Saturday, June 14.  The New Canaan production is the premiere of the show, which is based on the children's book "Merrilee Mannerly and her Magnificent Manners."

“What’s fun is that I’m a 20-minute drive from the studios where they rehearse,’’ Squier said. “I can pop in and see what other members of the creative team are doing on a daily basis. The choreographer has brought in a lot of fun stuff, and the designers have done some wonderful things. They’re bringing their ‘A’ game for this one.”

The story centers on Merrilee Mannerly, a young girl who loves good manners. She assists a poorly mannered girl who moves next door with a birthday party. Silliness, friendship and education about proper manners ensues.

Squier co-wrote the 50-minute musical with Jeffrey Lodin, with whom he has collaborated previously, as well as with the book’s authors, Mary Cashman and Cynthia Whipple.

The process started nearly three years ago when Ryan Ratelle, then the executive director of the Hartford Children’s Theatre, approached Squier about writing a musical based on the book.

When Squier read the book, he thought he could convey its message through theater. Ed Libonati, executive director for the summer shows in New Canaan, saw a reading of the script in New York and asked Squier to open the season.

Writing scripts for musical theater productions is usually collaborative, Squier said, and he appreciated the help from Cashman and Whipple.

“You’d think it could be hard with so many people involved,’’ Squier said. “I’m used to working with a lot of people. I look at it as a real advantage. I don’t have any 8-year-old daughters. There are many things in the musical that I would not have thought of on my own. Duct tape became a big part of this musical, thanks to Mary and Cynthia.That’s something that never would have occurred to me.”

The final project reaches the youngest audience for whom Squier has written. He wrote “Disney’s Doug Live!” which appeared at Walt Disney World, but that audience was for children a bit older.

“Definitely, this is the youngest age group I’ve written for and had the most number of female characters,’’ Squier said. “I thought the book was very charming. I loved the title character. She dresses in a junior version of a Chanel suit, and she’s a young lady without being prissy. The other central character is a bit of a wild woman. The combination of those two characters made it a lot of fun to work with.”

The production at New Canaan stars Stamford’s Lanie Levitt, There will be 12 performances, and ticket prices begin at $20. Other shows at New Canaan this summer include "Hairspray," "The Little Mermaid Jr." and "Charlotte’s Web." There will also be A Night of Stars in Concert on June 28. Complete information is available on the Summer Theatre of New Canaan website.

“It’s great to have a professional summer stock theater so close to home,’’ said Squier, who is also on the Board of Directors for Curtain Call in Stamford. “It’s an exciting and inspiring atmosphere. I’m a theater rat, so it’s fun to have it right here and have it part of my everyday life. Going to shows there is a good excuse to get out of the house.”

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