Meet The Composer!

We recently sat down with Deborah Wicks La Puma, composer of ELEPHANT & PIGGIE’S “We Are In A Play!” Deborah is no stranger to The Growing Stage, having composed music for our recent productions of ELLA ENCHANTED and DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS. Learn more about her journey as an artist and what it’s like collaborating with Mo Willems.

Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I first performed in a musical as a freshman at Stanford University, and was instantly hooked! I wrote my first full-length musical (“One Bad Apple”, with librettist Chris La Puma) as my music honor’s thesis. I then went on to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and received a Masters from the Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program. Fresh out of grad school, I moved to Washington DC, and started a family. I applied for every kind of theatre job I could do – accompanist, music director, performer, vocal coach – anything to get my foot in the door at a theatre. And time and again the opportunities came working with Theatre for Young Audiences.

This is your 3rd collaboration with Mo Willems? How did this partnership come together?
In 2010 I was brought in to work as the musical arranger for Mo Willems’ first musical “Knuffle Bunny” at the Kennedy Center. Mo comes from a place of improv and comedy – with lots of laughing and goofing around – and often improvises in quick visual sketches. It was a joy to work with him and respond to such a dynamic collaborator, and I was delighted when he asked me to write “Elephant and Piggie” with him! We followed that success with “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience” at Seattle Children’s Theatre in 2018, and “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus” at the Kennedy Center in 2019.

Your style of music in your work is so vast? Do you have a particular favorite style to work with?
I grew up as a “Navy Brat” and spent my childhood bouncing from California to Brazil to Portugal, all while visiting my family in Mexico. Music helped me string the pieces together—I was grateful to absorb the sounds and musical identities of each new location, and still love being a musical “chameleon” and writing in lots of different styles. My favorite style to work in is…one I haven’t worked in before!

What are some of your musical influences?
I am a classically trained musician, so I love dynamic classical music (Stravinsky, anyone?), while also being a rock ’n roll child of the 80’s (I love you Bryan Adams, and I’m not ashamed to say it). In both cases, lots of drama!

What do you think makes Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are In A Play” so special for audiences to see?
I think this story of friendship is universal and joyful – everyone can relate to a great day spent with a friend, and even when something goes wrong, everything is going to be okay – you know your friend has your back. The show is like the best hug in musical form.

Do you have a favorite character in E&P? If so, who is it and why?
Of course I love every character in the show – I relate with Elephant’s angst, I aspire to Piggie’s optimism, but I especially love the sassy Squirelles. Writing their three part harmonies was SUPER fun.

Why do you think Theatre for Young Audiences is so important?
I am often asked “How is it different to write for kids than it is for adults?” And the truth is it is not really that different. It takes the same amount of time and energy to create a great 60 minute show as a 120 minute show. Both can cover the entire spectrum of human experience. But the real and most important difference I see is in impact. Any musical can create joy in a shared communal experience, but a TYA show plays directly to children questioning who they’re going to be, where they’re going, and how they fit into the world. A great musical for kids can build dreams, inspire empathy, and make the vulnerable feel seen.

Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?
I continue to work with Mo and his new production company The Mo Willems Workshop, and most recently finished writing music and songs for an animated series based on his “Unlimited Squirrels” books – coming to a streaming platform soon!

Fill in the blank: Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are In A Play!” is…
A musical about friendship. Share it with a friend you love!

ELEPHANT & PIGGIE’S “We Are In A Play!” runs May 3rd through the 19th with performances on Saturdays at 4PM, Sundays at 2PM and a Special Opening Night Event, Friday, May 3rd at 7:30PM. 

Ticketing System

  • Main Stage Performances are normally Saturdays at 4:00PM and Sunday at 2:00PM. Friday performances are on a limited basis at 7:30pm.
  • Studio Series Performances: Thursday/Friday at 7:30PM, Saturday at 4:00PM and Sunday at 2:00PM.
  • PLEASE NOTE: Local Flavor Coupons and Groupons cannot be redeemed online.  You must call the Box Office to reserve and redeem. Box Office is open daily Monday thru Friday from 10:30am to 3:00pm. Please call at least 24 hours prior to redeem.
  • Seating begins 30 minutes prior to each performance. If you select Will Call as your ticket delivery method, your tickets will be available for pick up starting an hour prior to the performance.
  • Seating is general admission except for season ticket holders and groups of 10 or more.
  • Sales are final and no refunds will be given unless the performance is cancelled. If you are unable to attend, please contact the Box Office and we will do our best to accommodate you at a different performance based on availability.
  • Concessions will be available for sale before the performance and during intermission. Outside food and drink is not allowed.
  • Parking is available in the bank parking lot next to the theatre (when the bank is closed), the park lot behind the bank lot, and on the surrounding streets. If needed, overflow parking is available at the Methodist Church down the street.
  • If you have any questions, please contact the Box Office at 973-347-4946 or and we will be happy to assist you.

    Group Sales (10 or more) are available by calling the Box Office at (973) 347-4946.

Please fill out this form to receive more information or call 973-347-4946

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