‘Big Bad’s Big Bad Day’
Two Blair County residents writer Kathrine Muller of Altoona and musician Stephen Johnopolos of Hollidaysburg, have collaborated on a new children’s musical to be performed in March at the Iron Bridge Theatre, Tyrone.
Muller, 66, wrote the script and song lyrics for “Big Bad’s Big Bad Day,” Johnopolos composed the music and Altoona artist Cory Benjamin Geishauser (Muller’s son) of Altoona created the illustrations for the play’s activity book which will be given to all children in attendance.
Muller is a former Altoona Mirror columnist who is semi-retired as a drug and alcohol prevention specialist. An early childhood educator, she wrote the column “Small Talk,” between 1986 and 1991 and focused on providing parents with advice on preschool children. She and her son later collaborated on her first book called “Small Talk from A to Z,” based on those columns, Geishauser said.
Muller describes the production as a “fractured, musical tale of the Big Bad Wolf.”
Johnopolos describes himself as “a self-employed-musician, writer,” who left graduate school to perform on the road along the East Coast and later relocated to south central Pennsylvania, where he often visited during childhood as his mother’ was originally from the area, he said.
Geishauser has two children Morgan, 7, and Mikayla, 5, and has kept the play a surprise for them and his two nieces, all of whom plan to attend the production.
“They do see me drawing different characters and ask me a bunch of questions. I’ve already illustrated about a dozen children’s books, so they’re used to me drawing a lot of cartoons and watching dad at the drawing board.”
This is the second collaboration between Muller and Johnopolos. The first occurred in 1997 when Muller wrote lyrics and Johnopolos wrote the music for a song to open the Olympic International Bike Trials held in Altoona. The Hollidaysburg Alumni chorus performed the song at the opening ceremonies at Mansion Park, Muller said.
The duo reconnected in 2017 and Johnopolos suggested another collaboration. Muller, had an idea for a children’s book, and at Johnopolos’ suggestion changed it into a children’s play musical. The production uses familiar fairy tales and characters and jumps off as Big Bad, a slovenly, disorganized wolf, can’t find his appointment book. In his attempts to discover where he should be, he visits Three Little Pigs, Little Red Running Hood, Peter and his grandfather and Missy Muffet, who makes baked goods at a ‘new age’ bakery.
“The music is cute and features ragtime, ballads, salsa and jazz” genre tunes, she said. A narrator creates interaction with the children in the audience through sing alongs and questions that prompt the children to think about better ways for the wolf to behave. It is suitable for kindergartners through 6th graders, Muller said.
“The most enjoyable part of the process will be seeing the play performed on stage,” Johnopolos said. “To compose a song without any real purpose, sensitivity and feeling is merely an exercise. When you write a chart for a set of lyrics with a sentiment and story behind them, it becomes music — and the music becomes ‘whole’ and achieves its ‘identity’ when performed by a talented actor-singer on stage.”
The two main characters, Narrator, a female who resembles Goldilocks, and Big Bad Wolf have the main speaking roles and are supported by the other characters. She also placed references to local businesses, such as We Three Pigs, OINK, a take off on New PIG, the industrial sock manufacturer based in Tipton.
The duo worked with Dave Villani, a top audio professional in the region, who had the technology to print the music.
Muller said she showed the script to various professionals in the area and received positive reviews, but no one could produce it this year. Advised to contact Iron Bridge, owner/director Drew Baker signed on immediately, she said. “It’s becoming more and more real,” Muller said that their work will be performed.
Baker said one of his goals at Iron Bridge is to feature local writers and actors. “We’re excited to work shop it and put it on.”
Staff writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.