Local boy hits the big time, doesn’t lose his head
Brooklyn playwright gives back to Manchester community
life story is remarkable enough in its own right.
A Jewish kid who
grew up in an all-black neighborhood of the Bronx, Schoenfeld moved to
the Manchester area (Goffstown, to be exact) at around age 20, had a
wife and kids, got divorced, lived as a single parent and was homeless
for a time, until he finally made his lifelong dream come true by
bringing his musical, Brooklyn, to Broadway.
“I’m originally a
kid from the Bronx, but I lived in the Manchester area so long, I call
it home now,” Schoenfeld said.
Now a successful
composer and playwright, Schoenfeld is hoping to use his newfound clout
to bring attention to a local cause that is important to him. Rather
than turning into another show-biz egomaniac, he is instead hoping to
raise awareness about the services of the Moore Center, a
Manchester-based organization providing services and resources to
children and adults with developmental disabilities and brain injuries.
Shoenfeld will be the keynote speaker at the Moore Center’s upcoming
annual meeting and fundraising dinner, scheduled for Nov. 1 in Bedford.
During his time as a
New Hampshire resident, Schoenfeld made some friends who became
catalysts for what would come later in his life. He met singer and
composer Barri McPherson after hearing her sing at the Galley Hatch, a
nightclub in Hampton Beach. So enchanted was Shoenfeld with McPherson’s
angelic voice, he hired her for a recording session to sing one of his
songs. The duo went on to write the book, music and lyrics for Brooklyn,
which just closed this past June after a yearlong Broadway run and will
soon begin its national tour.
But before Shoenfeld
made it big, back when he was still kicking around music and ideas for a
musical, he used to hang out every day at the Panera Bread café in
Bedford, working through his ideas for concepts and songs. That’s how he
met Tim Boynton, an employee at Panera. Tim’s dad, Paul Boynton, is the
director at the Moore Center.
“Through Tim and
Paul, I was exposed to the work being done at the Moore Center, and it
just blew me away,” Schoenfeld said. “I could not do this kind of work.
It’s 24-7 care for people, for their whole lives. The people who work
here, I think, are angels on Earth.”
Schoenfeld’s struggle to bring his show to life, the Boynton family
became his biggest fans.
“Mark’s energy is
contagious,” Paul Boynton said. “But I have to admit, when Tim first
introduced me, I was a little skeptical, especially when my son told me
that he wanted to move to New York and work with Mark. But getting to
know Mark while his show was in the process of being put together, and
later while it was being mounted, was very exciting.”
said he never intended to go all the way to Broadway, now that he’s made
it there, he’s in no hurry to leave. And now that this former homeless
man has some personal wealth, he wants to share it — along with any
other support he can give — with the Moore Center.
“There’s a song in
Brooklyn called ‘The Heart Behind These Hands’ that talks about how you
see a homeless person on the street, and most people never stop to think
about who that person is, how they got there, and any hopes and dreams
they have,” Shoenfeld said. “I think a lot of people have the same
attitude about some of the clients here at the Moore Center. They feel
sorry for them, but they don’t realize that these people have stories of
their own. They have hopes and dreams too. They want the same things
that everyone else wants.”
That’s where Boynton
and his staff come in.
“The Moore Center
assists people with developmental disabilities, from birth through their
entire life,” Boynton said. “We offer resources, such as our day care
center, respite care for family members, and in-home care, for people
with anything from a mild to a severe disability.”
Schoenfeld calls the
work Boynton does “genuine and great.” He will appear at the Nov. 1
fundraiser, held at The Event Center at C.R. Sparks, along with his
writing partner Barri McPherson, who will perform selected songs from
“I’ll be talking,
and Barri will be doing the singing,” Schoenfeld said. “I’ll be talking
about my struggle, and how important it was to meet certain people along
the way who reached out to me and made a difference. That’s what the
people at the Moore Center do every day, but on a much larger scale.
There’s a lyric in the show that goes, ‘when you change someone’s life,
you change your own.’ And I think that applies to the work being done
speaking engagement is over, he’ll be heading back to New York to
complete work on his new musical, Music Boy.
“It’s a musical
about a boy with healing powers, who uses music to help people,” he
said. “I got an offer from Disney to turn the script into an animated
film, but I turned them down. I want to go back to Broadway again.”
For more information
about the Moore Center’s annual meeting and fundraising dinner, call
365-7405. For more information about Mark Schoenfeld and the national
tour of Brooklyn, you can visit brooklynthemusical.com.