Princess Cruises premieres Broadway-style musical in Port Everglades | Video

Broadway legend Stephen Schwartz — the musical composer of “Wicked,” “Pippin” and “Godspell” — is trying on a new role as producer of a show that had its debut in Fort Lauderdale.

Schwartz is the producer of “The Secret Silk,” a musical that premiered on the Royal Princess cruise ship at Port Everglades on Feb. 28. This is the third show Schwartz has produced for Princess Cruises, including titles “Magic To Do” and “Born To Dance.” A fourth show produced by Oscar-, Tony- and Grammy award-winning Schwartz is scheduled to debut in 2019.

“Yes there are cruise ships that bring, you know, productions of ‘Hairspray’ or productions of ‘Chicago’ or ‘Mamma Mia,’ as you say, and I don’t mean in any way to denigrate those because they are terrific shows and they’re good productions,” Schwartz said during a press event for the show. “But the fact is that you can see those shows other places. You could actually go to Broadway tomorrow and see ‘Chicago.’ You could see the movie. Some of you could see ‘Hairspray’ in your kids’ high school, etc. This is the only place you can see ‘The Secret Silk.’ This is the only place, on Princess ships, is the only place you can see ‘Magic To Do’ or ‘Born To Dance.’ There’s something about that I think is pretty cool.”

The production is an interpretation of an Asian folk tale about a mysterious woman who has a magical gift, the ability to spin beautiful silk fabrics seemingly out of thin air. “The Secret Silk” also uses puppets created at the Jim Henson Creature Shop and was created and directed by John Tartaglia, a Broadway performer whose credits include “Avenue Q,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Shrek The Musical.” Tartaglia is also the host of SiriusXM On Broadway’s “Sunday Funday” program. “The Secret Silk” uses some original music as well as 15 chart toppers including R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly,” “Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long,” Cyndi Lauper’s “Money Changes Everything” and “Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter.”

For more information, call 800-774-6237 or go to Princess.com. Here is more about “The Secret Silk” in an oral history.

HOW IT ALL STARTED

We talked to some of the principals involved:

Gordon Ho, Princess Cruises executive: “In our partnership with Stephen Schwartz we have three shows … they are really being played around the world, I think in nine ships around the world. So, again, our goal is to do every [thing] we can, knock on wood, to continue to expand and our collaborations with Stephen, because we have found them to be so productive. You can’t see this on Broadway.”

Stephen Schwartz, producer: “When Princess first approached me about forming this partnership and invited me to get into contact with talented and creative friends of mine, one of the very first people I called was John. We’ve been friends for a long time and I’ve admired his creativity and, of course, his use of puppetry in terms of storytelling, which is probably the use of that art form in the world.”

John Tartaglia, director: “Basically I was given a wonderful open treasure chest to create a magical show. And I remember very, very long ago sort of hearing the story of – it’s known either as ‘The Silk Crane’ or ‘The Grateful Crane’ – there are a few different titles that the fairy tale lives under. Riko [Nakazono], who is one of our amazing dancers, is from Japan. And she said that, to her, in Japan, the story of ‘The Silk Crane’ is kind of like their version of ‘Cinderella.’ It was such a beautiful story and I was struck by how visual it was. And I love any kind of story that makes you want to reach deeper into your soul. And I was really struck by the idea of sacrifice and … what is the greatest thing you can give to another person and that is yourself.”

Schwartz: “We just said well maybe we should try and find a story that is some kind of Asian story or tale. And then John did quite a bit of research and found the story of the Secret Silk.”

Denise Saviss, Princess Cruises executive: “We could bring in original shows or we could bring in the original Stephen Schwartz and that was the decision we took. Firstly because Stephen, of course, is so prolific -- you know his work over many, many years has been incredibly successful. To bring in a show like ‘Mama Mia’ or ‘Chicago,’ we’re sort of fitting the square peg in the round hole as opposed to building from the ground up.”

CREATING A BROADWAY SHOW ON A CRUISE SHIP

Shannon Lewis, choreographer: “I went home to New York for a couple of days just recently and there was such a buzz in town about what we’re doing, about what Stephen is doing, about what Princess is doing. Everyone is very, very aware. It’s a real new frontier for the possibilities of Broadway shows and new, original Broadway shows and the kind of ... facilities that we have and the kind of new original work that’s going on. Everyone is very, very excited and interested.”

Schwartz: “This is what you expect when you see the best of a new musical on Broadway, but it hasn’t really been the rule on cruise ships, which provide, you know, terrific entertainment, but they are essentially revues. And so to take this step forward and still have the chance to reach this audience, which seems to have been the case … started out as a risk, let’s face it.”

Saviss: “It’ll go to two more ships after this one and then a potential one or two in 2019.”

Tartaglia: “We set a challenge to the cast and the crew the very first day we came into rehearsals: We said we’re not going to treats this as a cruise ship product. We’re not going to treat this as a cruise ship show. We’re doing a Broadway show. It may be 50 minutes long. It may be on a cruise ship. But we’re doing a Broadway show, so we’re going to treat you like Broadway performers. We’re going to have expectations at a Broadway level and everyone rose to that challenge. Broadway to me is a mentality, it’s not a venue. There’s a level of expectation that comes with a Broadway caliber show and that’s what we were going for.”

Tartaglia: “We say to the cast all the time to try and remember that for some people - who may never get to New York City to see a Broadway show, who may never get to Las Vegas to see a Broadway show or never see a national tour – that this might be their one experience. And so we have a duty and a privilege and a responsibility to bring that kind of entertainment to those who are sailing onboard. I think about that all the time, about maybe this is someone’s dream to see a show like this.”

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