The Absolutely-Historically-Accurate-Except-Where-It's-Not American Cinderella Story
Book & Lyrics by Nathan Christensen, Music by David Mallamud
Picture the classic story of Cinderella. But the American folktale version. As improvised at bedtime by a dad whose sense of humor is not appreciated by his ten-year-old daughter. He ends up spinning a funhouse ride of a story that bounces between Grimm fairytales, the satire of Candide, and the self-referential cheekiness of The Princess Bride. Spittoonia on the Erie is a snarky, historically inaccurate, musical romp that will forever change the way you think of Cinderella, the 19th century, and the invention of the ice cream truck.
NATHAN CHRISTENSEN (Book, Lyrics)
Nathan Christensen is a playwright and bookwriter/lyricist. He earned an MFA in musical theatre writing from New York University, and his musical theatre work has been honored with a Richard Rodgers Award, a Jonathan Larson Award, a Daryl Roth Award, a Dramatists Guild Fellowship, and an O’Neill Theater Center residency. His musical adaptation of Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver, written with composer Scott Murphy, was featured at the NAMT Festival of New Musicals, as has been seen in musical theatre festivals across the country. Their musical Broadcast, a panoramic history of radio, has been performed at Playwrights Horizons in New York City, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Wesleyan University in Connecticut. His play The Battle Creek Cure was performed as part of the Tallgrass Theater Festival. He is currently writing a holiday play titled The Winter Visitors, and collaborating with composer David Mallamud on a steampunk adaptation of a Jules Verne novel. Nathan has also been a concert violinist, tutored Kazakhstani jewelers in entrepreneurship, produced a live comedy review show, served as a missionary in South Korea, conducted experiments in sonoluminescence, written greeting cards, co-founded an exotic fruit-growing business, composed a women’s jazz quartet that is performed around the world, and was a theater critic in Tucson, Arizona. He and his wife co-authored Keeping Kyrie, a memoir about the experience of adopting six children, one of whom was born with a life-threatening birth defect called Pierre Robin Sequence.
DAVID MALLAMUD (Music)
Award-winning composer David Mallamud writes music that transports his listeners to a dazzling Parisian music hall, a species-altering glam metal firestorm, a fantastical beach of Sneetches, or the hidden recesses of Nijinsky’s psyche—all with equally imaginative insight. He has composed for venues ranging from Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center to Off-Broadway, where his music for the recent production of Flight School: The Musical (currently running in NYC and touring China) was lauded by Laurel Graeber of The New York Times, saying: “The production’s biggest boon, however, may be its score. Here, Mr. Mallamud has written music worthy of bigger stages, variously embracing classical lyricism, pulsing pop, the poignant ballad and at least one all-out, Alice Cooper-style rock rant.”
Recently Mallamud was thrilled to work with Mike Mills (of R.E.M. fame), arranging and composing additional music for his Concerto for Rock Band and Violin, written for violinist Robert McDuffie, who premiered it with Mills and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in June 2016. His CD, The Wild & Whimsical Worlds of David Mallamud on Broadway Records, featuring a cast of wonderful performers from Broadway and beyond accompanied by The Albany Symphony's Dogs of Desire, won a 2016 Broadway World Album Award for Best New Compilation. Mallamud’s other recent and current credits include music for a stage adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches, in collaboration with playwright Philip Dawkins for the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis; performances by the Albany, Harrisburg, and New World Symphonies; and projects with Emmy-nominated lyricist Alisa Hauser, playwright Joshua H. Cohen, and librettist Len Schiff.
A 2016–17 Dramatists Guild Fellow, Mallamud has received many other honors, among them a prestigious Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, two Morton Gould Young Composer Awards from ASCAP, and the Leonard Bernstein Fellowship at Tanglewood. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music and master’s degrees from both Juilliard and NYU’s Tisch Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program, and pursued additional graduate studies at Yale with Ned Rorem and Evan Ziporyn. davidmallamud.com
It’s bedtime, and 10-year-old Molly is insisting that, if her dad wants to tell her a story, he needs to stick to an authorized, published fairytale, like “Cinderella”, rather than this improvised nonsense he usually comes up with. But when Dad explains that he actually knows the original American version of the Cinderella story, Molly is curious, and cautiously lets him begin his tale.
The story’s heroine is named Spittoonia. (“No, it makes total sense!” insists Dad when Molly objects. “Cinderella was named for the cinders she had to sweep. What do you think the American Cinderella would have to clean?”) She lived in Ashenpuddle, New York, on the banks of the newly completed Erie Canal. Like her European counterpart, Spittoonia lived with a pair of stepsisters (who were also suffragists, vegetarians, teetotalers, spiritualists and just basically made everyone around them feel inferior). When they would demand she perform chores around the house, like rendering the lard and delousing the silverware, she would instead sit by the canal and weep dramatically. Until, of course, the day the canal spoke back, promising to bring Governor Dewitt Clinton’s party barge to Ashenpuddle, if that would just stop Spittoonia from salting up her water with all those tears for a few minutes.
And so begins a hilarious romp that even wins over Molly in the end (though she would never admit it). In her quest to find love and avoid work, Spittoonia crosses paths with enchanted muskrats, a cheese boat, the ghost of George Washington, an overly effective séance, questionable medical advice, the Mattress King, and a passive aggressive maid who is sure that she is the true heroine of the story.
“Spittoonia on the Erie” was a grand, boppy, punny creation that showed off his gifts for melody and song and kept the crowd laughing."
Geraldine Freedman, The Daily Gazette