He doesn’t exactly live here anymore, but Jonathan Karp’s heart is still in the MetroWest area. Now a Manhattan resident, the writer still has strong ties to Short Hills, where he grew up.
Karp sees “a Jewish sensibility” that came from who he is and where he grew up as having a strong if unstated presence in How To Find True Love and Save the World in 90 Minutes. The show, for which he wrote the book and lyrics, had its official Off-Broadway opening Nov. 12 at New World Stages in New York.
The musical comedy, he told NJJN, had its origins in a song-writing workshop he and Seth Weinstein (composer and musical director of How To Find True Love…) attended seven years ago. There they met actor-singer Michael McEachran, who, Karp said, reminded them of the young Danny Kaye. The writer and composer knew immediately that someday they would write a show for McEachran. And How To Find True Love… is it.
McEachran plays Miles Muldoon, a timid bookstore clerk who discovers that he is the only person who can prevent a global catastrophe. In the resolution of the plot involving the United Nations, a sexy diplomat, and an idealistic slacker he must confront his fears and deal with the choice between those fears and true love. The show is directed and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli.
There is something “covertly Jewish” about the humor in the show, Karp said. As examples, he cites a gospel song that includes Yiddish words and another song, “Only the Paranoid Survive,” that has, he thinks, a Jewish quality.
It is no surprise that Karp’s writing is infused with the influence of his Jewish upbringing. His first experience writing for the musical stage, he recalled, came while he was president of the youth group at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills. Rabbi Barry Greene was a good-natured mentor who did not even recoil when the teenager wrote irreverent lyrics that lampooned the congregation. Karp said that he once “appropriated ‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’ and transformed it into an homage to the rabbi called “Mean, Mean Rabbi Greene.”
Greene “has remained a supportive friend throughout the years and even attended the premiere of our musical at the New York International Fringe Festival,” Karp said. How to Save the World… was also presented at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004 and was a Fringe audience favorite, playing to capacity crowds and drawing praise from critics and fans alike.
Karp said he sees the show as ideal for New Jersey audiences. For one thing, he noted, it literally takes place in 90 minutes without intermission. Garden State residents can see it and be home in time for the 11 o’clock news, he said.
Karp maintains strong ties to his Essex County roots; his parents, Margery and Donald, still live in Short Hills as does his sister, Kathryn Karp Cohen. Both parents, he said, are “active members of the Jewish community.”
A graduate of Pingry School and Brown University, Karp was an editor at Random House for 16 years, during which time he acquired and edited many best-selling books. Last year, he moved on to the Hachette Book Group, where he has his own imprint, TWELVE, dedicated to publishing no more than 12 books per year.
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