Helen and Jonathan Lethem

I know I've mentioned that Helen on 86th St. is taught in high school English classes--but, what I've recently found out is that it's also used in a number of college classes.  I bring this up to reiterate what I feel like I have been saying ad nauseum about this show since we started developing it--that this aint' your average "kiddie musical."  Helen on 86th St. has a wide audience appeal. 

Now, don't get me wrong.  Tweens love this musical.  At least the tweens that have worked on it and seen it in it's various stages.  But, so do their parents.  And their grandparents. 

A story that taps into universal themes such as loss, longing, and abandonment can reach all audiences.  And because we've made a concerted effort to infuse humor and humanity into every moment of the piece, it's not a drag to sit and spend two hours grappling with some very substantial issues.

And will this make a great "kiddie musical," also known as a "Broadway Junior?"  Without a doubt.  Robby and I have that version in our back pocket.  After writing children's musicals for years and working on countless other Broadway Juniors, we know exactly how to condense our moving two-hour musical into a moving, fun and engaging one-hour "junior" version. 

So, why haven't we just focused our efforts on getting that version licensed and done by every middle school from here to Timbuktu?  Because we believe this show is more than just that.  We wholeheartedly believe that many people will be touched by this show.  Heck, many people already have been touched by this show.  So before we start chopping apart our two-hour version, we want to see it come to life as we've envisioned it.

Today's diatribe was inspired by an email our author, Wendi Kaufman, received this week from a college student.  Check it out and decide for yourself, is Helen on 86th St. just for kids?


Hi. I am a student at the University of Georgia and am taking a course in multi-cultural literature. As a result, I am writing an essay comparing Vita's loss of her father (abandonment) to Jonathan's loss of his mother from illness (in Jonathan Lethem's short story "13, 1977, 21"). In your story, I think Vita uses the role of Helen to enable her to move past the loss of her father. When Vita recites the final lines of the play ("to say goodbye"), I see her saying goodbye to the hope that her father will return. I was wondering if you had experienced a loss of a parent when you were younger? I hope this is not too personal of a question, and if you prefer not to reply, I fully understand. 

Anyway, I enjoyed reading "Helen on Eighty-Sixth Street." I look forward to reading your book.