I’ve always loved musical theater, but I know plenty of people who hate going to musicals—”because in real life, no one walks around, bursting spontaneously into song.”
Well, actually, that did happen at my house when I was a kid. My mother was a professional singer. Opera mostly, but any kind of music worked for her. So yeah, if I asked her a question, she would sing the response.
ME: Where are we going, Mom?
MOM (singing): Somewhere over the rainbow…
There were six of us in my family, and we were organized by vocal part (as you do.) Two sopranos, two altos, one tenor, and one bass. It just seemed natural to join choirs or perform in teen musicals. In high school, I was in the casts of Carousel and Godspell, and the crew of The Fantasticks.
I must have passed the gene along to my kids, because they love musical theater too, especially my younger daughter. Like Natalie in Fade to Us, my daughter is on the autism spectrum and is drawn to acting. She’s equally happy in the audience or on stage. She’s been in the casts of many “junior” musicals as well as The Black Nativity and Sing Down the Moon. I can’t even begin to count how many shows we’ve seen.
When my editor and I began to brainstorm the plot for this book, we knew we wanted to set it in the summer, so we discussed (and discarded) several ideas. Beach vacation. Summer cruise. Either could’ve been a good option, until we discovered that we both had performed in musicals and—there it was! The book would take place during a theater camp.
The choice of musical took a little more time and a lot more debate. I initially wanted to make up a show. My editor was pulling for something by Rodgers and Hammerstein. My daughter was Team Hairspray all the way. I contacted a high school drama teacher for his opinion, and Oklahoma! won.
The research was so much fun. Two drama groups–a teen summer musical camp and an adult community theater—allowed me to sit in on their rehearsals. I interviewed the directors, shadowed the stage managers and backstage crew, and watched the casts try the same scenes over and over.
I soon became fascinated with how important stage managers were, running everything in the show, quietly wielding power. Yet I couldn’t remember noticing them from the productions I’d been in.
Since I was hoping to write a theater story that hadn’t been told, I’d already decided the romance wouldn’t be between two actors. So why not a romance that involved no actors? Micah—the hero—could be the stage manager, and Brooke—the heroine—would join the crew. The third main character, Natalie, would be an actor in the production. Fade to Us was born!
During the cast party in the book, the fictional director tells everyone how much she enjoyed directing them and that, in musical theater, she loves “how a different cast and crew can take a well-known script, inhabit its world, and make the show their own.”
That’s the feeling I wished to capture in Fade to Us. Everyone in the production comes together to sing, dance, act, and create something wonderful. After the show ends, everyone—cast, crew, and audience—takes a little bit of the magic home.