Minnesota native pens music and lyrics for local production.
An American Tale the Musical, based on the 1986 animated film, makes its world premiere run April 25–June 18, 2023, at the Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) in Minneapolis. The lyrics and book were written by Tony Award-winning playwright Itamar Moses and Michael Mahler, originally from Minnetonka, and his musical partner, Alan Schmuckler, penned the music and lyrics for the stage production.
The story follows Fievel Mousekewitz, who escapes Russia by boat, to make his way to New York. While the odds appear to be stacked against him, he holds firm to his dreams of a better life and reuniting with his family.
CTC and Mahler work together in perfect harmony, according to artistic director Peter C. Brosius. “[Mahler] is a dream to work with—smart, insightful, funny and wonderfully creative,” Brosius says. The theater also recognizes Schmuckler for contributing to the creative duo’s unity. “He and his partner, [Schmuckler], work together so brilliantly, respect each other so deeply and feed off each other so dynamically. It is a joy to have them here and to be able to create a new piece with them for the upcoming season,” Brosius says.
Mahler, along with Schmuckler, contributed his talent as a composer and lyricist to the theater’s production of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which closed June 2022. (It was also on stage six years ago, and he was involved in that production, as well.)
Mahler, currently based with his family in Chicago, got his start as a composer in the Minnetonka area. “There were a lot of theater opportunities,” he says. “The theater scene was a place where friends turned into a family.” Those experiences provided him with some early inspiration.
“I attended a lot of classes at Stages Theatre Company [STC] in Hopkins—a place geared toward each level and age,” Mahler says. In addition to CTC and STC, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres (CDT) was also a favorite of his as a child.
In terms of performing, Mahler played Charlie Brown for STC at the former Camp Snoopy in the Mall of America and portrayed the young Phantom in Phantom at CDT. He attended Benilde-St. Margaret’s in St. Louis Park, where he played Tony in West Side Story during his senior year. He went on to study musical theater at Northwestern University in Evanston, just outside of Chicago.
While he now calls Chicago home, Mahler has high praise for Minneapolis’ theater scene, calling it “exciting.” He says, “There is a real drive toward diversity, which is really refreshing. A lot of new voices are coming to the front and large. Commercial theaters are taking chances on work like ours.”
Tickets for An American Tale the Musical are available at childrenstheatre.org or at the theater’s box office.