The Kid Who Would Be Pope co-creators Tom and Jack Megan have been thinking about and playing music together since they were boys growing up in Massachusetts. Their great-grandfather, an Irish immigrant, made sure his children had a musical education. Their grandfather, a lawyer, was a brilliant pianist and bought pianos for all his children when they had their own homes. Their father was a soloist at Trinity Church in Boston. Their mother is a pianist.
Both Tom and Jack are accomplished musicians in their own right – Tom on piano, guitar and trumpet, Jack on piano. They began working on The Kid when a friend at a summer creative arts camp for children asked them to write a musical quickly for 50 kids. They wrote the piece in a month, and then it took on a life of its own eventually landing at the New York Musical Festival in New York City and garnering the 2013 Richard Rodgers Award and the 2013 American Harmony Prize.
For the free workshop production on May 20-22 at Ars Nova, the brothers have written new songs, tweaked original songs and developed the script. They are also working with adult actors in the roles of children, a big shift from earlier productions.
“The adult actors bring a new range and accessibility to the roles,” says Tom. “We miss the beautiful children who played it in the past. They were endearing and talented. But seeing it played by adults allows us to see it in a different way which is very, very exciting.”
Two of the adult performers – Jillian Louis as Sister Katherine and Kevin McGlynn as Sister Rudy – were in the NYMF production, and they bring the depth of experience to their repeated roles. Watching the veteran and new performers has been an inspiration.
“It’s exciting to hear very talented and gifted actors and directors bring the story to life,” says Jack Megan.
The musical is about Billy McPherson, the new kid at a parochial school in the 1960s. He falls in love with a young singing nun at the school and sets his sights on becoming Pope in the hopes of changing Church doctrine and marrying Sister Katherine.
“It’s a play about growing up and coming of age and discovering your own creative power and the nature of love,” says Jack. “It’s set in the Catholic milieu Tom and I grew up in, but it’s a universal story that has been told in every culture and religion that has a coming-of-age tradition.”
Although the Megans have been influenced by the sounds they grew up with at home, as well as the more popular music of The Beatles – “As kids, we took tennis rackets and pretended we were The Beatles. We strummed like John and Paul,” says Tom – the big luminary is Stephen Sondheim.
“He is, for me in so many ways, the most influential,” says Tom. “He sets the standard and the rigor and also the audacity of subject matter. There’s a long list of others. He’s just at the top.”
But there’s also no shortage of sibling admiration between the brothers as well. They’re simpatico with humor. And the impulse toward creativity is in their shared DNA. It’s a family imperative – carried through the ages and into a new work of musical theater.
BREAKING NEWS!THE KID had a sensational run of workshop performances at Ars Nova May 20-22 in New York City! Thanks to the terrific cast, director West Hyler, and musical director Jeffrey Lodin! Also thanks to Ars Nova and the Richard Rodgers Foundation! More updates coming soon - follow us on Facebook and Twitter.