THE J.A.P. ISSUE: FROM PAGE TO STAGE

By Jacob Suskewicz

Published May 19, 2006, issue of May 19, 2006.

Isabel Rose has done much in her lifetime to debunk the stereotype of the JAP. Now that her hit debut novel, “The J.A.P. Chronicles” (Doubleday, 2005), is being staged as a musical, her crusade is gaining even more attention.

“More than anything, I want to keep breaking down the stereotype of the JAP and to celebrate the individual,” Rose said.

“J.A.P Chronicles, the Musical” follows the lives of a group of former bunkmates of Willow Lake camp and shows the paths that each of the women has taken as the group reunites for the camp’s 100th anniversary. The story revolves around Ali Cohen, the “ugly duckling” of the group, who has grown up into a “self-made swan.” Always the outcast and prone to the effects of the girls’ Jappiness, Ali, 20 years older and now a successful filmmaker, relishes the opportunity to see her old tormentors, hoping to rub their (probably surgically reconstructed) noses in her success. The camp recruits Ali to make a documentary for the reunion. In examining the lives of her former bunkmates, she discovers that there’s more to these so-called JAPs than meets the eye. They’re not just the incarnations of a stereotype; rather, they are all real people with real problems, and more complex than one simple catchphrase can describe.

In the theatrical adaptation of her novel, Rose plays all the characters. She also composed the music and adapted the songs’ lyrics from her book. To say she’s multitalented is almost an understatement. Rose’s pedigree is not all that different from the characters about whom she writes, in the sense that they all grew up accustomed to a life of privilege. Raised on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and educated at The Dalton School, Rose attended an exclusive camp for girls. She went on to graduate from Yale University and then received a Master of Fine Arts from Bennington College. Rose has transitioned into her professional career quite successfully, with not only her book and musical to her credit but also numerous acting roles and musical performances.

Perry Street Theater, 31 Perry St. (between W. 4th St. and Seventh Ave.); through May 28; Mon., Wed.-Fri. 8 p.m.; Sat. 3 p.m., 8 p.m.; Sun. 3 p.m.; $50-$60. (212-868-4444, www.smarttix.com or www.japchroniclesthemusical.com)



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