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Benny And Joon’ Has World Premiere At The Globe

New musical inspired by 1993 film starring Johnny Depp

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Jim Cox

Hannah Elless as Joon and Bryce Pinkham as Sam in "Benny and Joon," book by Kirsten Guenther, music by Nolan Gasser, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, directed by Jack Cummings III, running Sept. 7 through Oct. 22 at The Old Globe.


Hannah Elless, "Benny and Joon" actress

Bryce Pinkham, "Benny and Joon" actor

Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter

The 1993 film "Benny and Joon" provides the inspiration for the world premiere musical that just opened at The Old Globe.

The film "Benny and Joon" starred Aidan Quinn and Mary Stuart Masterson and the title characters, a brother and sister who recently lost their parents in an automobile accident. Benny is protective of his sister, Joon, who suffers from schizophrenia. Into their lives comes Sam (played in the film by Johnny Depp), an emotionally damaged young man who escapes through movies.

For The Globe production, Andrew Samonsky stars as Benny, Hannah Elless is Joon and Bryce Pinkham is Sam.

Pinkham has the challenge of not only stepping into the shoes of Johnny Depp but also into the shoes of such silent clowns as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, the movie legends that inform Sam's life. But it was a challenge he "desperately" wanted to tackle because "it was a realization of a dream."

The film was not a musical but Depp's performance seemed inspired by a music track playing inside Sam's head. For Pinkham, that music becomes a very real part of the performance.

"Because when you think about Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton they did a lot of work with music because obviously there's very little dialogue. Well none in their early careers," Pinkham said. "Charlie Chaplin even composed a lot of his own music for his films. So they had a very intimate relationship, the silent comedians, with music and knowing exactly how to time what they were doing with musical quality. So I think [music] is essential to Sam the character and the story as a whole."

Sam and Joon develop a romantic relationship and Elless said she hopes the audience is cheering for them.

"Sam is a character who comes in and helps everyone open up their gifts," Elless said. "Sam is really good about being the key that turns the lock that helps everybody open up the best part of who they are. And I think Joon does the same thing for Sam, she empowers him in a way that he's not been empowered before... I always imagine Joon as being a girl that's in her head and Sam as a guy that's in his heart. And so when those two things meet they sort of complete each other. And I think it's nice to see those two come together."

"Benny and Joon" has a book by Kirsten Guenther, music by Nolan Gasser, lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, and is directed by Jack Cummings III. It runs Sept. 7 through Oct. 22 at The Old Globe.

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