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Meet The Creators of Benny and Joon Kirsten Guenther, Nolan Gasser, Mindi Dickstein

Meet The Creators of Benny and Joon Kirsten Guenther, Nolan Gasser, Mindi Dickstein

Back in 2016 I fell in love with the adorable and winning Benny & Joon, book by Kirsten Guenther (Little Miss Fix-it), music by Nolan Gasser (Pandora) and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein (Little Women on Broadway).

Bryce Pinkham, Hannah Elless Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Kirsten Guenther is the recipient of a Richard Rodgers Award, Rockefeller Grant, Dramatist Guild Fellowship, Johnny Mercer Writers Fellowship, and a Lincoln Center Honorarium. She has participated in writers’ residencies at the ASCAP/Disney workshop, the Lark Playwrights Development Center, the Dramatist Guild Fellowship program, Goodspeed Musicals, The National Alliance for Musical Theatre, The Orchard Project and Theatreworks Silicon Valley, among others. Current theatre commissions include a musical adaptation of Roman Holiday, MGM’s Benny & Joon(The Old Globe Theatre, Paper Mill Playhouse 2019), Heart & Souls (Universal Theatricals), The Years Between (T-Fellowship, sponsored by Harold Prince), Bob Fosse’s Rhythm of Life (Fosse Estate), and the new musical, Measure of Success (Amanda Lipitz Productions). She wrote the book and lyrics for Little Miss Fix-it (as seen on NBC); and book for Mrs. Sharp (Richard Rodgers Award: workshop at Playwrights Horizons, starring Jane Krakowski, directed by Michael Greif). Her other musicals include: Out of My Head (licensed by Steelespring Stage Rights); and The Cable Car Nymphomaniac (The Gateway Theatre).

Claybourne Elder, Hannah Elless, Bryce Pinkham Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Nolan Gasser is a critically acclaimed composer, pianist, and musicologist – most notably, the architect of Pandora Radio’s Music Genome Project and the company’s chief musicologist from its founding in 1999. His original compositions are performed frequently, and in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Alice Tully Hall, La Salle Pleyel (Paris), and the Rose Bowl (Pasadena), among many others. Key current projects include an opera, The Secret Garden, commissioned by San Francisco Opera (premiered March 1, 2013), a musical, Benny and Joon, in partnership with H2H Productions and MGM On Stage, a film score for the Lance Kinsey film, All-Stars (which is currently tearing it up in the film festival circuit), and a forthcoming book, Why You Like It: The Science and Culture of Musical Taste (Macmillan Press, 2016). Nolan is also the subject of a documentary for the ESPN-FiveThirtyEight series, The Collectors, entitled “Breaking Music Down to Its Genes”, which was released in May 2015.

Hannah Elless, Claybourne Elder Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Mindi Dickstein is an American lyricist and librettist. Dickstein wrote the lyrics for the 2005 musical production Little Women, the book for Toy Story: The Musical and Benny & Joon.Dickstein has taught at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in the graduate musical theatre programme. In 2001, Dickstein received the Jonathan Larson Grant.[

Bryce Pinkham, Hannah Elless Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Benny & Joon is based on the MGM movie Benny (Claybourne Elder) has taken care of his psychologically troubled sister Joon (Hannah Elless) since their parents died over a decade ago. Benny now in his early 30s, and Joon in her early 20s, but, ten years on, not much has changed. A mechanic with his own garage, Benny feels he is a master at managing the life they’ve ended up with. But when they take in a strange young man named Sam (Bryce Pinkham), who is like a modern Buster Keaton, everything changes. 

The complete cast Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Jack Cummings III directs. The cast also includes Conor Ryan (Sam at certain performances), Belinda Allyn, Colin Hanlon, Tatiana Wechsler, Paulo Montalban, Jacob Keith Watson and Natalie Toro. 

Claybourne Elder, Hannah Elless, Bryce Pinkham Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Benny and Joon starts previews April 4th and opens April 14th at the Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive, Milburn NJ

Out of Town

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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