Maria Ciampi Headshot
Where did the idea come from for Kris Kringle The Musical, and what made you decide to take on a Christmas theme?
So, it's funny, I was born on Christmas Day and so it's funny, I actually had written a short story and it almost got picked up by a major short story company and the editor-in-chief, it happened to be, his brother worked down the hall from me. I didn't even know this. And he said to me, you know, Marie, you don't really write like a like a novelist, you write more like a screenplay writer. So he said you really should take screenplay writing classes. So I actually took screenplay writing classes in New York City and the screenplay that I wrote was called, Kris Kringle and I actually had an agent, and he submitted it. And then one day a principal company looked at it and said, "oh, this isn't "It's a Wonderful Life, um, that's what we were expecting."
So I said, I'm gonna, just put this show away after that, and instead, people came up to me and said "Marie you should make it into musical." So the idea came from research to see if the name Kris Kringle had ever been used as a movie or play and it had never been done. So that was sort of the genesis of the whole thing.
Album Artwork for Kris Kringle The Musical
How did you come up with the songs for the show? It's very interesting because you are a lawyer and now a musical writer/lyricists. Did you have a background in writing music and songs?
It's funny. My Dad was recording engineer for RCA and he actually won a Grammy award. He never knew how to read music and he never played an instrument. So I think there's something in my DNA that's musically oriented because I don't play an instrument either. What I did was when people came to me and said, make it into a musical, I said, I can't do music, you know, I can do the writing and all that. And so they paired me a man named Angelo Natalie who had written the music for Barney the TV series. So they said "Maria his name means Christmas, Angelo Natalie, and your story, You were born on Christmas, so he might be the perfect person for you." So what I did was I gave him the titles of many songs in the original version such as "Green Suede Shoes," My North Star," and "What's So Merry About Christmas" and then he did the lyrics and the music.
Then we brought in another composer to [Tim] Janis and he and I went through everything and we went over and over the music and lyrics and the story and he wrote some new songs and we put a blend of some Angelo's songs, and some of Tim's song. And then by that time I got so used to reading other people's lyrics I said, "let me try." So I wrote some lyrics too, so It's funny how you're capable of doing a lot more than you think you are. So at the beginning I didn't think I was capable of doing it, but by the end I still have not written any music and I don't think that I'll ever do it; but I did accomplish writing lyrics.
And how is this different from your average Christmas musical?
First, the one thing I learned from putting on a show because we had a show in development in Ohio and then we had a show in the Town Hall [NYC], is that people are looking for a brand new Christmas musical. People told me that actually they watched the same musicals year after year. They know the lines that are going to be said. They know what the music is going to be. So this is a totally original story. Not based on a movie you've seen. It's totally an original story. That's first. It has totally original music, so these new absolutely beautiful gorgeous songs of all different types. So if you like Elvis, there's a little "Green Suede Shoes" if you love ballads there is the beautiful "My North Star," if you love a little skip-a-doo in your step, we have a song called "Skip-ba doo." But really what you're moving toward in the end is towards a theme of forgiveness. And so I've seen people gasp when they get the reveal at the end of the story but they didn't anticipate it coming and yet, and I've seen people laugh and cry in the same show. So I think what we're doing, is something unusual, it also finally, and I didn't intend this Rye, at the beginning I didn't know what times we would be living in now, but a lot of people have said to me "Maria, we could use show like this now with so much adversity, and this show is about forgiveness and learning to love each other and broken families and healing families." So people are feeling how relevant it is to the times we're living in.
(Highlights from Kris Kringle The Musical)
Yeah, that is very true, as you said it is heartwarming to have a show like this in the time we are living in today. It's interesting. People have contacted me and said to me and to others who are involved in the show that they've actually contacted people as a result of the show. They've contacted people who they've had falling outs with and actually, you know, try to reach out to them and become friends again or brothers who have had fight, or family members or whatever. So if we could do even a little of that. And again, when I wrote the story, I didn't anticipate this, but what I think makes it unique is at the end of all of it maybe it'll make people make that phone call. What is next for the show- is another performance in the works? What we did this year is we immediately said let's try to do a cast album because we wanted to get the songs out into the world so the show could be known. So that's really what the focus of 2018 has been. And then next year we'd like to take it to the next level and now see if we can get it in theaters throughout the country. And I think that's you know, what we're hoping for. On Facebook, we have one song, "My North Star," which is a beautiful ballad that Noel sings about her mom because she's falling in love with Kris [Kringle] and she doesn't know what to do about it because she's a very rule oriented person because the mom died when she was little. And so she's lived for rules so that her life is very predictable and not unpredictable. That song alone has gotten over 1,200,000 views on facebook. so even though we're a little Christmas show, we've already , all over the world reached over a million people in just one song.
Editor's Note: This interview has been edited and condensed to fit this interview.