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A Conversation with Michael Dansicker, Playwright, "Shooting Star: The Bobby Driscoll Story"
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A Conversation with Michael Dansicker, Playwright, "Shooting Star: The Bobby Driscoll Story"

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Interview with Michael Dansicker
(Michael Dansicker Internet Broadway Data Base)
Shooting Star: The Bobby Driscoll Story
An Original Musical
(Bobby Driscoll Filmography)
York Theatre Company

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 12, 2009

I caught up with Michael Dansicker, Conductor, Playwright, Musical Director, Composer, Arranger, Performer, and more, at Seven, a restaurant with new American and Italian cuisine, on Seventh Avenue, between 29th and 30th Street, NYC, NY, close to Penn Station and the theatre district. Proprietors, Niall Conroy and Ian Conroy visited with us, during Michaelís visit. We both chose Skillet Blackened Sea Scallops with scallion mashed potatoes, corn-bacon vinaigrette, and cold Chardonnay.

Michael Dansicker has been a friend, neighbor, and theatre companion for some time, and Iím always impressed with his versatility, energy, and out-sized talent. On April 16, 2009, 3:00 PM, Michael presented a reading at The York Theatre Company, Directed by David Zippel, as part of the Developmental Reading Series, of a new musical about Bobby Driscoll, who, in his short, 31-year life (1937-68), appeared in dozens of films as an actor and vocalist, including Disney films. Driscoll won an Academy Juvenile Award in 1950 for his childhood role in The Window, a low-budget RKO film. Dansicker based his new musical (Dansicker wrote the book, music, and lyrics) on Driscollís bio, choosing as characters the young Bobby, the older Bobby, Morris Feldman, his agent, Isabelle Driscoll, his mother, Frances Farmer, an actress who befriended him toward the end of his life, and one actor for J.J. and other characters, J.J. being an aggressive drug dealer. Michael Dansicker played the songs and incidental music on piano, with Ed Shea on percussion and Jordan Jancz on bass.

Matthew Gumley, as the young Bobby, was exceptionally persuasive, and his voice is strong and precociously poignant. Driscollís mother, Isabelle (Linda Balgord), is the quintessential stage mother, who gets her son an audition with a Hollywood Producer, Morris Feldman (Tom Alan Robbins), and these two actors could not have been better cast. Balgord has a clear, vibrant musicality, and in this uncluttered setting, using chairs and a stage, I found myself totally absorbed in her story, her pathos, her yearnings, her loss. Robbins, as the agent, Feldman, was mature, ruthless, and self-serving, authentically convincing in posture, gesture, and voice. But, the real star of this show is Mark Price, who plays the older Bobby Driscoll, and he bears a remarkable resemblance to Driscoll, himself. Price sang with passion and fury, and his interactions with his mother and J.J. put him directly into his role, emotionally and in stage presence. He was vulnerable, sincere, and always in the moment.

Remaining characters, Curtis Holbrook as J.J. and extras, and Dee Hoty, as Frances Farmer, were also chosen well for personality, tone, and credible bearing. Dansickerís music has melodic elements, with contemporary appeal. The lyrics are so lifelike, that one forgets this is a reading, and the book is compelling. Michael Dansicker, David Zippel, and the cast will now prepare for an October reading, in advance of the next steps. Shooting Star: The Bobby Driscoll Story has a bright future on the New York and regional stage.

During our lunch, we discussed Dansickerís other recent and future projects. It should be mentioned that Dansickerís 2004 production of Twenty Fingers, Twenty Toes, reviewed in this magazine, was also staged at The York Theatre Company, as part of their ďMusicals in MuftiĒ series. Dansickerís extensive Theatre Audition books, such as The 16-Bar Theatre Audition series, for all ages, can be ordered at Barnes & Currently, Dansicker is Vocal and Dance Arranger for Little House on the Prairie, The Musical, opening in September at Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. Heís also writing the songs for Jim Davisís family show, GARFIELD LIVE!, with Bill Meade. This show will have an Arena Tour, starting in April 2010.

Dansicker and I chatted about his sweeping Broadway work with Twyla Tharp, such as The Times They Are A-Changiní, and his music for films, like Elf, Analyze That, and the television film, Piaf. In the 80ís, Dansicker conducted and wrote musical sequences for the Broadway show, Singiní in the Rain, also choreographed by Twyla Tharp. We also chatted about Jerome Robbins, for whom Dansicker played piano, during rehearsals, and was involved with Fiddler on the Roof and West Side Story. His work in the industry reached to Agnes De Mille and American Ballet Theatre (The Informer), as well as another ABT collaboration, Wynton Marsalisí Jumpstart. Michael Dansicker is a wealth of information about the musical theater community, history, and industry. Heís also a warm, humorous friend.

Michael Dansicker
Courtesy of Westmoreland

Mark Price
Courtesy of Jordan Matter

Skillet Blackened Sea Scallops
scallion mashed potatoes,
corn-bacon vinaigrette

Courtesy of Roberta E. Zlokower

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at