A musical adaptation of Germaine Shames’ beautiful book will bring a forgotten ballerina’s life to the stage.
American author Germaine Shames began researching the narrative of her biographical novel You, Fascinating You nearly a decade ago. Ten years on, she is looking forward to You, Fascinating You: The Musical.
The powerful tale of You, Fascinating You reveals the hidden epic behind a timeless love song and provides an insight into the life of headstrong Jewish ballerina Margit Wolf. First published in 2012, the book won an Editor’s Choice award from the Historical Novel Society.
Now, a future on Broadway beckons. The true story of this unforgettable Hungarian woman and her romance with an up-and-coming Italian composer has been adapted as a musical that is currently being prepared for its stage debut.
The fictionalised account of how Margit Wolf followed her dancing dreams to seek out stardom in 1920s Italy, before falling for music-maker Pasquale Frustaci and having her life torn apart by the Second World War, is a riveting read.
You, Fascinating You would never have been written if not for a chance encounter between Cesare Frustaci, the son of Margit and Pasquale, and author Germaine Shames in the winter of 1990. Germaine found herself intrigued by Cesare’s background and, as she discovered more about his family history, increasingly inspired by his memories. She became determined to help him in his quest to share a long-forgotten ballerina’s courageous story.
Through interviews with Cesare and his relatives, Germaine cultivated an understanding of the era, of the discipline of ballet and of the spirited woman herself.
Reading the novel is like stepping back in time. The vivid prose creates a wonderful nostalgic feeling and the blockbuster yarn itself is akin to any classical ballet or dramatic opera. Germaine has penned both the libretto and lyrics for You, Fascinating You: The Musical and, having been enthralled by the book, I believe Margit’s story has the capacity to make a seamless transition to the stage.
An early draft of the script was table-read at Tucson’s Temple of Music and Art (Arizona’s first community supported musical, theatrical and cultural centre) last year. A workshop production is scheduled to be held at St. Francis Theatre (also in Arizona) in February 2015.
This preview staging will be the first leap towards what Germaine hopes could be a carefully choreographed conversion onto Broadway and perhaps even into London’s West End.
Germaine Shames is a former foreign correspondent. She honed her writing skills on the front lines of world conflict and boasts bylines in National Geographic Traveler, More and Hemispheres. A recipient of the Literary Fellowship in Fiction from the state of Arizona, this wordsmith is also the author of four published novels, a story collection, three feature screenplays and two musical stage plays. She is also lyricist on the film Lucky U Ranch which is currently in post-production.
Writing You, Fascinating You allowed Germaine to return to her roots in the performing arts – she majored in theatre, studied at art school, returned to education mid-career to discover the secrets of screenwriting and has also worked as an arts reviewer.
Italian composer and songwriter Federico Ferrandina has written the music for You, Fascinating You: The Musical. Many of his songs and instrumental pieces have become soundtracks for films and television shows and he won two Global Music Awards in November 2012. Engrossed by the story and familiar with Pasquale Frustaci’s work, Federico’s collaboration with Germaine has revitalized You, Fascinating You and is helping to make the musical a reality.
Germaine commented on my review of the novel and also responded to me via email. In her email she said: “How wonderful that you make time both to read and to dance, the best things in life.”
(I definitely agree with Germaine on that. One of my favourite quotes is: ‘Let us read and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world’ – Voltaire.)
She added: “I’m thrilled that you enjoyed Margit’s story. We are hoping to hold auditions in the coming weeks.”
“Chukkas” to all the performers auditioning and to the creative team working so hard to bring You, Fascinating You: The Musical to life. I look forward to hearing more about the production’s development as Margit’s story takes to the stage and a bygone ballerina reprises her role in the spotlight…
Georgina Butler is a journalist, a dance writer and a dance teacher who specialises in teaching classical ballet. She previews and reviews productions, writes features and interviews people from the world of dance.