The Alien Logs of Super Jewels took flight in 2015 and quickly won positive reviews and five book awards. Next up? The stage! Author, BK Bradshaw, composer Josh Freilich and singer and actress Hannah Howzdy tell the story–from bookshelf to stage.
BK Bradshaw: The Alien Logs of Super Jewels: A New Musical began in 2014 when I had finished a novel and had a discussion with my daughter, Jaqi, about what I should do next—another novel in that series, or something completely new. Jaqi said, “You should write a book about a kid with autism like me.” I asked what the book would be like and Jaqi said, “It would be the truth and from the perspective of the kid with autism, not someone else.” I began writing in the first-person voice of Jaqi, using actual experiences from her childhood and my own as inspiration and three months later, the book was done. I loved the honesty of Jewels and was inspired by characters such as Judy Moody and Ramona Quimby. I decided that for this age group, words weren’t enough to tell the story, so I searched for an illustrator and found the gifted comic artist, Travis Hanson, who had just the right wholesome comic feel to his work. After initial sketches and Jaqi’s stamp of approval, the book was illustrated and published.
If that wasn’t magical enough, I then searched for readers and producers for the audiobook and among thousands of potential readers, stumbled across the stellar voiceover talent of New York stage actress, Hannah Howzdy. I invited Hannah to submit an audition and after hearing her distinctive voices for each character, I knew I had found the perfect audiobook reader. After completing the audiobook, her friend and composer Josh Freilich found it on Audible, and after hearing a sample, Josh shared an excerpt from the opening monologue of the book on Facebook, and Hannah tagged me in the post. I was so touched that Josh had felt such a powerful connection between his own experiences and those of Jewels, the main character. The comments in the thread demonstrated that Josh had a very positive and gifted network of friends. His posts revealed rare talent and a kind heart—someone I was honored to “meet.” I sent Josh a private message and after a few conversations, we discussed the idea of the book being adapted into a musical. The rest is, as they say, history. I began converting the book to a script, Josh began composing, Hannah reviewed our work and graciously cheered us on, and for the next two years, we all worked together seamlessly to complete the new musical.
Hannah Howzdy: A book as sweet and wonderful as The Alien Logs of Super Jewels is hard to come by. I was so blessed that the opportunity to perform the audiobook came by way of a message from Brenda, whose love for her daughter shone through every page of her story. Throughout the recording process, Brenda and I worked together to find a voice for Jewels that was removed from the melodious, standard children-character voice, that would introduce kids and adults listening to a new kind of protagonist.
Although Josh may have found Brenda’s story through my involvement, it was Brenda’s beautiful characters that drew him in. A match between Josh and Brenda - both immensely talented, passionate artists, who share a powerful and tangible connection to autism - was one likely written in the stars.
Their collaboration has given Super Jewels a new life, in a show pulsating with energy, joy, and love. I am so proud to be a small part of this super process!
Josh: When I first heard the opening “Alien Log” of the novel, I knew I could relate with the character of Jewels so well, having been an Aspie for all of my life. I knew I had to find some way to bring Neurodiversity and Asperger’s Syndrome to a larger, theatrical medium, and I thought that writing this musical, which covers the pros and cons of this disorder in a way the general public can understand, could be the best way to do that. It was a very good thing Hannah introduced me to BK, because had I not known that she, too, wanted to write a musical out of this, this would never have happened. And if this hadn’t happened, I would never have been able to be as open about my developmental issues as I am now.
The first time I unveiled my music to a public audience was at the NYC-based non-for-profit organization, Musical Theatre Factory. Every month, there is an informal open-mic night called the “salon,” in which composers and performers play their upcoming works for a live audience in a community-building setting. The first performance of any Super Jewels material came one such night, in the form of a medley: I started with the first song I had written for the show, “System Meltdown,” in which Jewels loses it in “kinderprison” (what she calls kindergarten). I then followed that with a performance of a song that was literally hot-off-the-presses (which is to say, the lyrics were written, and the melody was formed 30-60 minutes before performing them), a song called “Perfect” in which Jewels meets and befriends her new human bestie, Gretchen “Perfect” Shelton. It must have not been that bad for it being that freshly minted, because apparently, the audience seemed to enjoy it immensely.
After that, more songs were written, including “Superhero,” the empowering anthem from the show. My first performance of that was at a staff talent night at my summer home, French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts in upstate New York. The kids and counselors were stomping their feet, clapping their hands, and “Woah-”ing along with the chorus. And then I thought, wow, I think I may have something here.
ALL: We hope that with THE ALIEN LOGS OF SUPER JEWELS: A NEW MUSICAL we can help reinvigorate public interest in mental differences and getting them immortalized onstage.
To listen to demo tracks for the musical, visit Soundcloud: