Marriott Theatre stages new musical 'Darling Grenadine' inspired by real life

  • Nick Cosgrove, left, Heath Saunders and Katherine Thomas star in Marriott Theatre's production of the romantic musical comedy "Darling Grenadine" by Daniel Zaitchik.

    Nick Cosgrove, left, Heath Saunders and Katherine Thomas star in Marriott Theatre's production of the romantic musical comedy "Darling Grenadine" by Daniel Zaitchik. Courtesy of Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

 
 
Updated 6/21/2019 6:20 AM

Creative inspiration doesn't keep regular hours. It can strike anytime and, when it does, singer/songwriter Daniel Zaitchik is ready. Even at 3:30 a.m.

"It all comes at once," Zaitchik said, "out of nowhere."

 

That's how it was with his new musical, "Darling Grenadine," which begins previews Wednesday, June 26, at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.

The idea hits -- and then the fine-tuning begins.

"Inevitably I have too much to say," Zaitchik said. So he relies on directors, music directors and dramaturges to help him figure out which of his "darlings" he has to kill -- in words attributed to several famous writers.

In the case of "Darling Grenadine," a romantic comedy centered around a singer-songwriter, Zaitchik's darlings included three or four characters and six or seven songs.

The longer he lives with a piece, the easier that is, says Zaitchik, who's been living with this musical for several years even as he worked on other projects.

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Developed at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Music Theater Conference, "Darling Grenadine" was part of Goodspeed Musicals' 2017 season. Following Marriott's production, the first in the round and the first to be reviewed, the show moves to the Roundabout Theatre in 2020.

"Each time I work on the show, I feel I get closer to what my goal is," he says. "A new director has new ideas, which can be beneficial."

To that end, Zaitchik anticipates some will take place during rehearsals and previews here under director Aaron Thielen.

Thielen got wind of "Darling Grenadine" during the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's 2017 new works showcase.

"It got great buzz," said Thielen, who described the show as both charming and challenging.

It "almost feels like a well-crafted play with unbelievably good music," he said, adding that Zaitchik uses lyrics the way a good novelist uses prose.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Partly based on Zaitchik's life and the lives of his friends, fellow songwriters and theater artists, it centers around singer/songwriter Harry, his actress girlfriend Louise and his bartender brother Paul.

Heath Saunders makes his Marriott Theatre debut as pianist/composer Harry in the new musical "Darling Grenadine" under director Aaron Thielen.
Heath Saunders makes his Marriott Theatre debut as pianist/composer Harry in the new musical "Darling Grenadine" under director Aaron Thielen. - Courtesy of Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

"It's about three characters on very different paths who bring a lot of baggage to the table," Thielen said. "It's a new work dealing with issues seldom dealt with in musicals. I think our audiences are going to be surprised."

There's a canine character also named Paul, a life-size marionette operated by puppeteer Phillip Huber. Thielen said audiences will absolutely believe he is real.

"He (the dog) is pure love and pure hope," Thielen said.

Initially, the show feels like a romantic comedy in the meet-cute, fall-in-love tradition, says Heath Saunders, who plays Harry. But there's a twist.

In musicals, the score typically does the heavy lifting for actors, Saunders said. But "Darling Grenadine" packs an "unexpected punch," even on the page, he said.

"It's not a show that shies away from what's real," added Katherine Thomas (Louise). "I haven't read many scripts that are as close to what real life feels like ... All the characters have a lot of depth."

Nick Cosgrove (Paul) describes working on the show as "an open conversation and an open collaboration."

"It's been great having the writer in the room with us," he said. "It's nice to be able to pull him aside and ask him about the character."

Zaitchik, a self-described theater kid, says he loves being in the trenches with actors and fellow theater artists "figuring this stuff out."

Thielen hopes Marriott's production ensures "Darling Grenadine" lives beyond Lincolnshire.

"People should come out to see it because they'll be taken on a journey that's exciting and rewarding," he said. "They'll walk away feeling joyous, hopeful and human."

• • •

"Darling Grenadine"

Where: Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, (847) 634-0200 or marriott theatre.com

When: 1 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday, from June 26 through Aug. 18

Tickets: $50-$60, dinner theater packages available

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