The explosively fun musical The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge LIVE IN CONCERT returns to the New-York Historical Society in 2019! Packed with colorful characters, rich musical numbers, and a heartwarming message, the show comes to life at the Museum on Sunday, February 3, back by popular demand following a sold-out production back in 2017. Get your tickets now!
Created by Jessica Ann Carp, this energetic show is a musical adaptation of the beloved 1942 children’s book by Hildegarde H. Swift and Lynd Ward and tells the tale of a little red lighthouse that feels dwarfed by the construction of a great gray bridge. We sat down with Carp to get the scoop on how she wrote this joyful theatrical adventure and what she loves most about the lessons from this story.
DiMenna Children’s History Museum: Do you remember the first time you read the The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge (or had it read to you)?
Jessica Ann Carp: Whenever I mention this book to people, I always get one of two reactions. One is something along the lines of: “I LOVE this book! I read it all the time with my grandmother when I was a kid!” The other is disbelief that they’ve never heard of it, especially if they grew up in the New York area. Though I’m a native Long Islander, I’m in the latter category: I missed this story growing up. When I first moved to Washington Heights, my dear friend Meg took me to the Little Red Lighthouse Festival run by the New York City Parks Department. I read the book and fell in love.
DCHM: Why do you think this book remains such a classic piece of children’s literature?
JAC: The Great Gray Bridge explains to the Lighthouse, “Each to his own place, little brother!” This book teaches us that everyone has a purpose, everyone has a chance to shine. I think that this message is a timeless one, and the book lays it out so simply and beautifully.
DCHM: What made you decide to transform the book into a musical?
JAC: It wasn’t really my decision. One day, a couple of months after my son was born, I had a precious few moments to myself at the piano. As I noodled around, “Quick, Let Your Light Shine Again,” began to emerge. This became the duet that the Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge sing toward the end of the show. The characters kept talking to me, and I tried the best I could to write down everything they had to say!
DCHM: Are there many differences between your Live in Concert version of The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge and the book version?
JAC: The original draft of this piece was only about ten minutes long and hewed very closely to the book. Through developmental readings and presentations, I learned that people were interested in knowing more. My first thought was that I wanted to add to the book without changing anything. The George Washington Bridge (AKA the Great Gray Bridge) opened on October 25, 1931. This is a time rich in history. I did extensive research to learn about that period in New York City and began to develop the characters and the story accordingly. Ultimately, I did make one plot change.
Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll just explain the two main reasons for this change. One, in the original version, this part of the story was heartbreaking and didn’t affect the overall plot and message. While the piece still has some tear-jerking moments, it’s ultimately uplifting. Two, changing this part added an element of momentum to the end of the story that yielded an exciting and happy payoff. It also highlighted the main theme: that everyone is important.
DCHM: What are three words you would use to describe your adaptation?
JAC: For me, I find this story inspiring, heartfelt, and fun! I was so flattered to receive fan mail after we performed the piece at the New-York Historical Society for the 75th anniversary. The two words that popped up more than any others were “charming” and “poignant.”
Written by Shana Fung
Don’t forget to snag your tickets to this exciting theatrical event on February 3! Book your tickets.