By Rachelle Hughes
Rick Elice started attending the theatre when he was just three years old and his mother took him to see My Fair Lady. Elice was hooked. With such an early love of theatre, maybe he was destined to make it his life, maybe it was the encouragement he got from his parents to read, go to theatre and interact with the arts. Maybe it was both: destiny and environment. Whatever the causes, Elice, who was born November 17, 1956, is currently one of the theatre world’s bright stars as the playwright for Peter and the Starcatcher (2004) and the book writer for the musicals Jersey Boys and The Addams Family.
While he has sometimes referred to his success as luck, Elice has earned his place in the limelight. From actor to advertising copy writer to choreographer and finally to playwright, he has had his hand in every stage of producing a successful theatre production. He is now a two-time Tony Award-winning playwright and book writer. In fact, his first venture into writing a book with Marshall Brickman for the musical Jersey Boys garnered him a Tony Award for best musical in 2006. Six years later, Peter and the Starcatcher received nine Tony Award nominations and then came away from the 2012 Tony Awards with five of those awards.
Elice’s success in such a short time period seems staggering. Yet, it is important to remember he put in years of hard work behind those successes and a lifetime of dreams that led him to Broadway. At age nineteen Elice fulfilled his lifelong dream and began his work on the stage. After graduating from Cornell with a B.A., he was accepted to Yale Drama School where he earned his M.F.A. He was fortunate to get work on Broadway the day he graduated from Yale. His Broadway dream came true, and he found himself working on and off for different Broadway projects for the next thirty-three years. “May I never be so old or jaded that working on Broadway—my dream since I was knee-high to a showstopper—is less than thrilling,” Elice said in an interview on The Broadway Blog (http://www.broadwayblog.com).
Elice has an impressive resume of theatre work. He wrote the popular thriller, Double Double with his partner Roger Rees (translated into sixteen languages), Leonardo's Ring (London Fringe, 2003), and Dog and Pony (New York Stage and Film, 2003). From 1982 to 2000 he worked as the creative director at Serino Coyne Inc. where he produced ad campaigns for some 300 Broadway shows, from A Chorus Line to The Lion King. He served as a creative consultant for the Walt Disney Studio from 1999 to 2009. He pays homage to his theatre education as a Teaching Fellow, Harvard University and as a charter member, American Repertory Theatre. In 2003, he appeared off-Broadway in Elaine May's comedy, Adult Entertainment. He wrote the book for The Addams Family Broadway musical which is now on national tour. His latest success Peter and the Starcatcher is a play with music adaption of the original novel Peter and the Starcatchers by authors Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author of more than two dozen books, most recently I’ll Mature When I’m Dead. Along with Ridley Pearson, he is the co-author of Peter and the Starcatchers, Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, Peter and the Sword of Mercy, and Science Fair. Their newest collaboration is The Bridge to Never Land.
Ridley Pearson co-author of Peter and the Starcatchers with Dave Barry, is the award-winning author of the Kingdom Keepers series. He is the recipient of the Raymond Chandler/Fulbright Fellowship in Detective Fiction at Oxford University. Ridley has also written more than twenty-five best-selling crime novels.
Rick Elice is quick to give credit where it is due. His opportunity to write the play Peter and the Starcatcher had a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time, with the right people. Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, the directors of the play were approached by Disney Theatrical Productions to develop a play based on the original novel that tells the story of how an orphan became Peter Pan. Rees and Timbers asked (as a favor) Elice to write up some workshop scenes for the original development of the play. Tom Shumacher from Disney and Dave Barry and Pearson loved the scenes and asked him to write the play. The rest is history.
Never one to sit on his laurels, Rick Elice is working on several new projects already. He stays true to his personal mantra penned by Tom Stoppard for the play The Real Thing. “If you get the right words in the right order you can nudge the world,” as he mentioned in his interview on The Graham Show (http://www.thegrahamshow.com).
In the future we should see a musical set in the time period towards the end of the era of Studio 54. He is working on that project with Stephen Trask, who wrote Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Peter Yanowitz, who is writing the score with Trask. He has also been working on a musical with Will Van Dyke about the first man who tried to climb Mount Everest, The Magnificent Climb.
“Got to keep busy!” Elice told Garth Jonston in an interview on Gothamist (http://www.gothamist.com).