Musical About Statue of Liberty Opens on Independence Day at New Home on 42nd Street

 A story about how the Statue of Liberty ended up raising her torch in New York Harbor is the subject of a musical that will open off-Broadway this summer at an appropriate date — July 4.

Producer Theresa Wozunk said the 80-minute "Liberty: A Monumental New Musical" starring 15-year-old Abigail Shapiro will play the 42West theater beginning June 6 and open on Independence Day.

"It's such a simple but complex and big story, so it hits people in all different ways. It's got smart dialogue, history and fun all wrapped up into one," Wozunk said. "Everybody can relate to it. Everyone has an immigrant story in their family."

The show uses some magical realism to tell the story of the iconic copper-and-cast-iron statue created by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. Given human form, she arrives in 1884 at a time of immigrant-bashing and she fights with politicians who want to deport her.

Liberty also learns about the people of New York — the freed slaves and Native Americans and immigrants. "Everybody that she meets, she learns a little bit more about just how complicated American life is and all the different people that make it up," said Wozunk.

The piece features a book and lyrics by Dana Leslie Goldstein with music by Jon Goldstein, and is adapted from original material by Dana Leslie Goldstein, Jon Goldstein and Robert Bruce McIntosh. It is directed by Evan Pappas.

The show, which premiered off-Broadway at Theatre 80 St. Marks in fall 2014, will now find a home at the 250-seat venue at 514 West 42 Street between 10th and 11th Avenues. Performances will be held during the day to not conflict with Broadway schedules. Children as young as 4 are invited.

"We want whole families to come see this — grandparents, parents and their children," Wozunk said. "The fact that we have all these tourists coming here, wanting to know more about the city, the challenge was just finding the perfect spot."

Wozunk, who helped produce "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess" on Broadway, fell in love with "Liberty" while watching it as a showcase in 2006. The title role was originally intended to be an adult until Shapiro came to audition with her sister, Milly.

The Shapiro sisters in the past few years have made a name for themselves as theater veterans, with Milly having played the title role in "Matilda the Musical," and her older sister playing Cindy Lou Who in "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" at Madison Square Garden.

Both initially were trying out to play boys in "Liberty." ("Neither one of them looked like a little Italian boy," Wozunk said, laughing.) But Abigail did a reading with the adults and stunned the creative team, who began thinking of her playing Liberty. They asked her to come in the next day and she sang all the songs.

"She just blew us away," said Wozunk.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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