Long Island author, actress, animal advocate and DansPapers.com blogger Barbara Anne Kirshner has adapted her children’s chapter book Madison Weatherbee – The Different Dachshund into new musical set for a two-weekend run at the South Shore Theatre Experience of Lindenhurst starting this Friday, May 19.
Madison Weatherbee The Musical, and the book on which it’s based, tells the tale of a displaced dachshund who embarks on a great adventure to find the love and companionship she so desperately needs in a not-always-friendly world. But what’s at the heart of this tale, Kirshner says, are two universal messages: “Even if you are not perfect, you still deserve acceptance and love” and “What may appear to be an imperfection, might really be a gift offering important lessons.”
The author, who also wrote the music and lyrics in the new show, adds, “Madison encourages the audience [or readers] to embrace differences, celebrate them and learn from them.”
Since self-publishing Madison Weatherbee-The Different Dachshund in 2014, Kirshner explains, “I have been on a magical carpet ride of readings/signings across Long Island,” and her experiences at those events made it clear the story could be adapted for the stage. “My background as an actress enabled me to bring a high energy, animated performance to audiences,” she says.
The titular character is Kirshner’s book and musical is based on her beloved dachshund Madison Weatherbee Jacoby Kirshner, who died much too young after being diagnosed with a degenerative spinal disease. The loss was devastating for the Kirshner, but she channeled that pain into the book, and eventual musical, which honor her lost dog.
“I feel her looking over my shoulder at every reading/signing and I know her spirit will shine brightly during the run of the show,” Kirshner says of Madison.
A purebred dachshund, Madison was an imperfect example of her breed—she had a ridge of upturned hair on her back, making her appear different from classic, American Kennel Club dachshunds. The dog in her story has the same ridge, which results in her being left alone at breeder Granny Muriel’s home in Missouri after all her brothers and sisters are adopted.
Seemingly unadoptable, Madison is placed in a cage and sent on a trip to New York City, but—here’s where the story differs from real life—Madison escapes from her cage at JFK Airport and ends up on a journey through a series of dark and unfamiliar places in this massive city.
The story, told from Madison’s perspective, leads the dachshund to meet all sorts of unique human and animal characters in the city. Madison’s adventure is reminiscent of E.B. White’s Stuart Little and Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo, and should be thrilling and fun for adults and children.
And because of her deep love of animals—dogs in particular—Kirshner has donated proceeds from her book to area shelters and organizations such as Save-A-Pet, Last Chance Animal Rescue, ASPCA, North Shore Animal League, Bideawee and the Humane Society. “With the play quickly approaching, I look forward to helping more animals,” Kirshner said this week.
Though it appears most geared for children, the musical (and book) is intended for people of all ages. “It is for anyone who loves animals and adventure stories, so that brings in a wide audience,” Kirshner says, adding, “I am happy to say that I have been contacted by adults, teenagers as well as little ones who have read the book, all enthusiastic about Madison, her harrowing adventure and the very special themes in the book.”
She’s now looking forward to expanding that audience with the musical.
Directed by Deborah Casio Plezia with musical direction by Leslie Ippolito and orchestration by Gregg Jacoby, Madison Weatherbee The Musical opens Friday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the South Shore Theatre Experience, 315 West Montauk Highway in Lindenhurst. Additional dates include Saturday, May 20 at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Friday, May 26 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 27 at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, May 28 at 11 a.m. Kirshner will be on hand to sign books at all performances this weekend, May 19–20.