"The Penguin Thing" continued
Love for penguins is a many-feathered thing. Robbie explains how a family in-joke led to him writing two penguin-themed musicals.
For years, my father would receive "penguin gifts" in homage to the penguin sequence in Mary Poppins. One year, in the late 1980s when I was still in school, my brother gave my father a ceramic statue of a penguin. This revived the tradition (but just within our close family) for a few years.
Eventually though, the inner family penguin gifts came to their natural end. My mother called me up at school and asked me why I hadn't given my Dad a penguin that year for Father's Day. I reminded her that "The Penguin Thing" had been something recently re-initiated by my brother and not by me. She said that she had thought so too, but then spoke to my brother and he assured her that I had been the one to give my father the penguins. So the inside-family joke was revived, this time with me as its target.
I purchased a massive inflatable Emperor Penguin from the Nature Company and left it in conspicuous places for my father to find. He would then leave the penguin at my apartment door - with notes affixed to its beak. "Meet me at Nate ‘n' Al's deli at 9am for breakfast". I left the penguin on top of his toilet once, with a note that read, "You could knock!" The inflatable bird eventually met its demise, suffering puncture wounds from all the traveling to and fro... Another noble bird.
A few years later, when I was still living in Los Angeles, my agent Mike Ricciardi recommended that I make a pitch for an animation TV series. He said, come up with a character or two, a storyline and make it a musical if you want. What I came up with was, The Penguin Pirate. The project evolved into a full-blown musical. One day I hope to give the project a serious revisit. There were some nice songs in the score - again owing to the nobility of the bird. When a character starts from a place of substance, songs and dialogue seem to grow organically from it.
It would be nearly two decades before I would come home to my beloved penguins. It was 2014 and I had an inspirational thought... A question really... - "What ever happened to the waiters at the country cafe in Mary Poppins?" Poppins was purportedly their "Favorite Person". But she never came back... "How did that make them feel?"
I thought, "What if I wrote a musical about what happened to the Penguin Waiters...?" "Perhaps they left food services altogether and formed a Barbershop Quartet..." The story is longer, but that was the impetus for Love Birds.
Now I'm knee-deep in writing the two-act version of Love Birds. We have a "table read" scheduled in May and I'm a bit behind in my writing. But it's wonderful to spend this time with my good old family friends... The Penguins of the Countryside... Parker, Presley, Pewcey and Puck! (Yes, I decided to give them names... In Mary Poppins they didn't have them!).