The Beautiful and Damned Comes to the Jeanne Rimsky Theater in a New Format
By: Hannah Devlin
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned is set to appear at Landmark’s Jeanne Rimsky Theater in a new format this summer. The musical will run from July 1-3 and features the original script, score and choreography of Long Island native Brooke Di Spirito. The musical was originally set to debut in 2020, and after many delays due to COVID-19, it will premiere on Landmark’s stage this season.
Di Spirito has a long history in ballet, and after growing up dancing, she decided to begin choreographing during her time at Northeastern University. After experiencing the performing arts in an administrative position, Di Spirito decided to begin her first project transforming a book into a stage musical. At Northeastern, Di Spirito majored in English, and she felt as if writing the script and lyrics for an adaptation would serve as the perfect bridge between her passion for theater and language. Now a recent graduate, Di Spirito has completed the adaptation. Throughout the production process she has served as the writer, composer and choreographer.
In 2019, the script was complete, and by 2020 it was ready to debut at Northeastern University as a jukebox musical, using music from preexisting shows. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the performance before its run, Di Spirito became inspired to compose original music for it. After workshopping the musical virtually, and two more cancellations in 2021, the production is set to open this July.
In regards to her first draft of the musical, written during lockdown, Di Spirito said: “I decided I would learn to compose and write. I’m not a professional by any means, I’m just self taught. I had no idea what it was going to take to do that.”
With her first draft of the musical, Di Spirito was accepted into a program with the New York Youth Symphony, where she was able to learn more about composition and rework her existing pieces. After receiving direction from professionals, Di Spirito explains that this program changed “how [she] looked at theater.”
Although Fitzgerald is most well-known for The Great Gatsby, Di Spirito became inspired by his previous work The Beautiful and Damned. The novel follows two main protagonists as their romance fades and the consequences of their actions unfold. Di Spirito felt as if the work was “screaming for a musical stage adaptation,” as the emotions of the characters are so strong and intense.
“When I was reading The Beautiful and Damned, on every single page there is something that is the perfect moment where someone is so moved that they could go into song or dance,” Di Spirito said.
With a background in ballet, Di Spirito used the style as the foundation for much of her choreography, exhibited by the numbers performed on pointe. However, other dance styles that were popular in the 1920’s, like jazz, are incorporated into the musical as well. Given her own theatrical experience, Di Spirito wanted to root the show in ballet, while also taking on new influences.
Throughout the process, Di Spirito has learned how truly collaborative the production process is, especially in light of COVID-19 complications. In her time working on the piece, Di Spirito has had to learn to balance her responsibilities. While acting as writer, composer and choreographer, she has had to find people to fill both administrative and creative positions who are as passionate about the production process as she is herself. With the numerous delays that the production experienced, the creative team behind the musical has changed in accordance to the availability of various members, adding additional complications to the rehearsal process.
Despite the complications and delays that The Beautiful and Damned has experienced, Di Spirito is thrilled to see her creation take stage this July at the Landmark. With the cast’s devotion, she has been able to see her vision come to life, and she is grateful for the opportunity for her idea to become a real piece of art.
“I created all of this in my head, and now people are creating it,” Di Spirito said. “People are going home and practicing their lines that I made up. People are singing songs and I remember being alone in my room writing them.”
The Beautiful and Damned serves as a testament to how resilient and rewarding the performing arts are. The process of this production has been a difficult one, but its delays have allowed the piece to grow into a more intricate and improved production. Despite the struggles and challenges faced during the past three years Di Spirito, along with the other members involved in this project, have proven that the performing arts will continue to grow and evolve, even in light of obstacles.