Sunday, December 2, 2018

Luna Park

I had the good fortune of seeing a reading of Hyeyoung Kim's new musical Luna Park earlier today. The reading was part of a fundraiser for the Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC), but the piece deserves to get a full staging somewhere.

Michael Cooper wrote the lyrics for the musical, and Daniel F. Levin supplied the book. Some parts of the play are inspired by Maxim Gorky's reaction to seeing Luna Park opening at Coney Island for the first time in 1903, and the artists have included some of Gorky's original text.

The heart of the show, however, follows a trio who made the amusement park possible. Frederick Thompson was the creative force behind the park, while Elmer "Skip" Dundy provided the business sense, and the park itself was named for Dundy's sister, Luna. All three appear in the show, as does Thompson's wife Mabel, an actress he made famous by producing the Broadway show Polly of the Circus, starring her.

Luna Park sometimes plays loosely with history. Sadly, the Park's namesake passed away three years after it opened, but the musical has her live on and play a major role in its ups and downs, including the electrocution of the elephant Topsy, an event caught on camera by Thomas Edison's motion picture company.

I'm not sure what the next step for this musical will be, but I hope to see it again someday.