Screencap from trailer; credit Colorado Springs Conservatory
In June of 2017, the Colorado Springs Conservatory
, a local performance art school, debuted Jack: A Moral Musical Tale
. Meant to convey an anti-bullying message, the musical followed a young bully into a dream sequence in which he met Jacks from different fairytales and folklore who taught him that nothing good comes from remorselessly bullying others. By invitation, we went to see the show, and came away with some issues
in the way the musical portrayed minority characters (the very people most at-risk for bullying) and the way its messages fell flat, or even contradicted themselves.
At the time, Conservatory CEO Linda Weise said: “It would be amazing to have a piece that was created and shaped by feedback here in our community that could have national and international relevance.”
Now, the Conservatory has indeed used audience feedback to revamp the story and musical score, with help from Conservatory alumni Josh Franklin, a Broadway performer who typically makes his home in New York City. “I like to give back,” Franklin says, “so I come back and teach and direct and write. It’s good for them; it’s good for me. This show in particular has been so much work, but so much fun, and it’s just a beautiful story.”
Since joining the Conservatory creative team on this project in November, Franklin, who has also directed this production, says he made some significant changes to the script. For one, he gave Jack more understandable motivation, hoping to illustrate that issues with bullying largely start at home with the family.
He also altered the tone of many of Jack’s dream sequences. “It was a great concept and a fun story,” he says, “but a lot of the dream sequences seemed to be just other Jacks from the history of literature picking on Jack, and I wanted to examine less of a nightmare and more of a dream in which people teach him positive lessons.”
Among these characters, Franklin introduced “Jack of All Trades,” to show Jack a different kind of future than the one he’s building for himself by bullying others. Jack of All Trades is portrayed by Brian Sears, one of three Broadway performers who Franklin invited to take part in this production. The other two are Moya Angela and Abbie Mueller. All three are currently active on Broadway, and have performed with Franklin in the past.
The Conservatory has also invited four dancers from the Colorado Ballet Society
, plus Thomas Wilson of the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs
, to collaborate on the performance.
While Franklin has made many changes to the original script, he says it is still recognizable as Jack
: “It’s a different angle. Definitely the same story, but a different way of telling it.”
The end of the show, which caused us particular concern in its original inception, has been “completely reconstructed,” according to Franklin. He says that the show has grown to encompass not just anti-bullying messages, but also messages of suicide prevention, and messages for adults who need to intervene when they encounter troubled children.
In spite of all this, Franklin insists that the show is mostly comedic, and the serious messages “sneak up on you,” which is a good sign for a family production. While we have yet to see the revised show, we find encouragement in Franklin’s enthusiasm for its changes.
In a press release, CEO Linda Weise said: “I am thrilled with what Josh [Franklin] has done to the original piece. His incredible songwriting abilities have really elevated the score and flow of the story… not to mention that I am simply humbled to work alongside him in bringing this story to life yet again, even better and with more great characters.”