Czech musical translates well

Theatrical producer, writer and director Steve Josephson spent the last year shuttling between Prague and Laguna Beach, getting to know Czech movie- and theater-maker Mirjam Landa.

The two met at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland, where Josephson had taken "2116," a futuristic Ray Bradbury musical that Josephson developed into a full-length work.

Landa had staged a musical version of one of her movies at the annual theater festival. She took time to see "2116" and returned a second time with her entire cast, Josephson said.

The two began to talk and share ideas, and eventually Josephson decided to visit Landa's hometown and meet her husband: rocker and race car driver Daniel Landa.

That mutual admiration has led to a joint effort to bring "White Dalmatian" to English-speaking audiences, Josephson said. A rock musical is also in the works.

"We just hit it off, and realized we are very much in sync in theater," he said of Mirjam Landa, an accomplished movie director as well as music video maker.

Josephson said he also fell in love with Prague, a city that has been at the cultural center of Europe for centuries but was cut off from much of the world while under Soviet rule.

"Mozart wrote there, and Art Nouveau was started there," he said. "I was blown away by the city, one of the only cities to remain intact after World War II. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe."

"White Dalmatian," a children's musical about magical toys — including an evil spell-casting witch, a bevy of killer bees and a Dalmatian who loses his spots — has been running for two years in the Czech Republic, according to Josephson.

After seeing it, he wanted to bring it to America.

"The songs and lyrics are wonderful," he said. "I don't know Czech, but I was singing the songs after leaving the theater."

But what works in one language can be lost in translation, and after reading an English version of the script, Josephson worked with Landa to write a version that would work for an American audience, and appeal to adults as well as children.

"The challenge was how to make it as fun here as it was in Prague," he said. Josephson worked on the project for months, changing parts of the original story line and adding huge puppets working against a black light.

He realized that the story would remind U.S. families of "Toy Story," "The Wizard of Oz" and other stories familiar in American culture and this could actually help the project.

"[Czechs] don't have the same frame of reference," he said.

The show has a local cast, some of whom may be asked to go to Edinburgh next summer when Josephson plans to bring the English "White Dalmatian" to Festival Fringe. He is also working with Bradbury — who will soon turn 91 — on a new ballet project.

While Gallimaufry has in the past staged classic staples of musical theater, such as "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and "Damn Yankees," the performing arts group has changed its focus to "developing new work," Josephson said.

The American version of "White Dalmatian" will have its U.S. premiere Friday in Laguna Beach.

If You Go

What: "White Dalmatian"

When: 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday

Where: The Artists' Theatre, 625 Park Ave.

Tickets: $10

Information: Call (949) 499-5060 or visit

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