Susan Seidelman has directed major films, including “Desperately Seeking Susan,” significant TV shows, including the pilot episode of “Sex and the City,” and even a Madonna video.
Until now, she has never written a stage musical.
“Boynton Beach Club” is her first, and it’s getting its world premiere this week at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. It opens Thursday with a red-carpet event that Seidelman is scheduled to attend.
It’s based on Seidelman’s 2005 film of the same name, a non-musical that starred Sally Kellerman, Brenda Vaccaro, Dyan Cannon and Len Cariou.
“Over the years, my mother, who lives in South Florida in one of those gated senior communities, has been sending me these stories by snail mail,” Seidelman said in a phone interview from her New York City home. “She’ll say, ‘Don’t you think this would be a good movie?’ ”
Some of the ideas were pretty good, but one about a support group for men and women whose spouses had died really intrigued Seidelman. The people in the group connected with each other and occasionally found love while they were in their 60s and 70s. Some of them hadn’t dated for 50 years. They found that falling in love was very different than it had been when they were kids.
Plus, she said, there were about eight women for every man in these bereavement groups, so men were finding themselves more popular with the opposite sex than they ever had been.
Some of the stories are sad, some are poignant, and some are very funny.
“Some of the stories are sad, some are poignant, and some are very funny,” Seidelman said.
It’s not just a story about being old people, and definitely not a story just for old audiences, Seidelman said. Like most older people, the characters in the story are vibrant and active, and even youthful in their outlook. They’re open for new experiences and they’re discovering new things about themselves and their lives when they enter new relationships.
The movie came out in 2005, and Seidelman had started working on it before that. So she came to the musical with a different mindset.
“This is no longer my mother’s generation,” she said. “It’s becoming my generation.”
The film was screening in New York. A couple of musicians saw it and contacted Seidelman about turning the film into a stage musical.
“They said when they were watching the film, they heard music,” she said. “I went to meet with them and they had one entire song already written.”
One of the musicians was Ned Ginsburg, who has provided orchestrations for Broadway musicals (“Aladdin” and “Doctor Zhivago”) and two Liza Minnelli solo shows on Broadway. Ginsburg ended up writing the songs for the musical.
Manatee Players officials have known about the show for several years.
It was great to get the composer’s insight. You couldn’t so that with a Jerry Herman show.
“I became aware of it probably four years ago,” said Rick Kerby, the producing artistic director of of the company. “A friend of mine who works in theater in New York became attached to the project because he had been doing a staged reading of it.”
The short version of the play’s saga, Kerby said, is that when the show was ready to be produced, Kerby’s friend suggested that Manatee Players would be a great place for its premiere.
Ginsburg came to Bradenton for rehearsals. He worked with the actors and Kerby who’s directing the production, making suggestions for ways to sing certain lines and even adjusting lyrics to suit the characters who had been cast in the show.
“That was very cool for me,”: said Ellen Kleinschmidt, who’s playing Sandy in this production. (That’s the Sally Kellerman role from the film. “It was great to get the composer’s insight. You couldn’t so that with a Jerry Herman show.”
Details: March 16-April 2, Stone Hall at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $27-$30. 941-748-5875, manateeperformingartscenter.com.