El Paso native Allan Jay Friedman, a producer, writer and composer, and book author Brittney Ryan, above, collaborated to produce the new musical "The Princess of Forever," based on the book "The Legend of Holly Claus." It will have its debut Sunday in El Paso. (Photo courtesy of Steve Carr)
Allan Jay Friedman's gift to his hometown of El Paso will be a concert debut he hopes will awaken dreams in children and adults.

The musical, "The Princess of Forever (An Enchanting Evening With Holly Claus) and Dream Tree Lighting," will be performed Sunday at the Plaza Theatre.

The El Paso Community Foundation and El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Center are presenting the program, a collaboration by Emmy Award winner Friedman, New York Times best-selling author Brittney Ryan and a crew of stellar entertainment veterans.

Actor Robert Wagner will be the host of the program, which will culminate with a tree lighting in front of the theater, "where all the children will be invited to place their dreams," said Friedman, who is based in Los Angeles.

"It is a major gift to the city. El Paso will be the first city in the world to enjoy this amazing event," adding that the Holly Claus project "is going to be huge."

In a telephone interview, Wagner said his involvement with the project is something different for him.

"I became fascinated by this whole world that (Ryan) created, which is so positive," Wagner said. "She's a great talent, and all this came out of her mind and concept of life. In Holly Claus, she's created a wonderful character."

The legendary actor, who is filming a movie in California, plans to make several appearances with Ryan after the debut in El Paso.

"I'm looking forward to the magic," he said.

Ryan said Wagner's participation "is a dream


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come true for me. He has qualities of great nobility."

Among other things, Ryan's book is the impetus for a new Broadway musical, a likely forthcoming movie and eight books.

A shorter version recently opened the holiday season for the FAO Schwarz in New York City.

Ryan's best-selling novel, "The Legend of Holly Claus," is the inspiration for the musical "Princess of Forever." Harper-Collins published the book, along with Ryan's other top seller, "The Christmas Princess."

The author, who lives in California, has performed in more than 30 musicals, and was voted Most Outstanding Young Woman in America by the National Press Club.ÊShe has been a commentator for major television networks, and is an accomplished producer, composer and storyteller.

Ryan, who also sings and performs the Holly Claus character, was in El Paso with Friedman this week to promote the multifaceted project, which is slated to become a classic with a following as big or bigger than the one Harry Potter developed.

Their scheduled appearances include a book signing today at Barnes & Noble in West El Paso.

El Paso will have "the first Holly Claus Dream Tree in America ... .Next year, the tree will be placed in (New York's) Central Park, with the dreams of children from all over the world," Ryan said.

"The Legend of Holly Claus" is a children's tale about one boy who wrote to Santa Claus, asking a question no one else ever had: What did Santa want for Christmas?

Santa and his wife have a daughter, Holly, who suffered a terrible curse from an evil soul named Herrikhan, freezing Holly's heart and locking the gates to Forever.

Once she is grown, and because of her pure heart, Holly escapes. Accompanied by four faithful and magical animal friends, she embarks on a series of dangerous and life-changing adventures designed to break the spell that holds her people hostage.

"It's more than a Christmas story, and it's not just for children but for the entire family," Friedman said. "It's an epic novel filled with mystery, magic and wonder.

"It also the first show ever to bring together a piano rhapsody, ballet and symphony excerpts in one show. I love my city, and I wanted to help uplift the people of El Paso."

Friedman credited Mayor John Cook with helping to get the program scheduled on short notice.

"We're elated to have so many top-notch performers come here for this," said Eric Pearson, vice president of the executive office of the El Paso Community Foundation. "We were looking for a way to bring children Downtown to enjoy the magic of the holidays. This opportunity presented itself at a good time, and we are thrilled to be able to offer it for very little money."

The New York Daily News said Friedman -- a producer, writer, composer and lyricist -- is known for his innovation of new art forms.

Director Peter Schneider also will be at the program's debut in El Paso. His Broadway producing credits include the Tony Award-winning "The Lion King," and Elton John and Tim Rice's "Aida."

Schneider, Walt Disney's president of animation and studio chairman for 17 years, created and distributed more than 50 movies, including "Beauty and the Beast," "Little Mermaid," "Toy Story," "The Lion King," "Roger Rabbit" and the "Princess Diaries."

Friedman's résumé isn't shabby either.

He produced the first documentary that combined entertainment with the documentary format, "The Young Man From Boston," about former President Kennedy, which earned him an Emmy Award as a producer, writer and composer.

He also created the first full-length theatrical musical for young people, "Winnie the Pooh."

The multitalented Friedman, considered a brilliant student, followed various academic paths before settling on his true passion.

He attended the University of Texas in El Paso, where he majored in pre-med, history and pre-law. He was a U.S. military officer, attended the University of Texas law school and the New York University Law School, and received a master's degree in public health from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Then, he won a doctoral scholarship to Harvard University to further pursue his interest in "elevating the minds and hearts of people everywhere by bringing first-class entertainment to show how to achieve the highest level of physical, mental and environmental health."

Friedman is the founder and president of AJAY Productions and The Center for Top Performance, whose board of advisers includes Nobel Prize laureates and Olympic and professional athletes and celebrities.

He is founder and chairman of Picture Book Productions LLC, which presents the new art form that he says combines Hollywood with Broadway.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at dvaldez@elpasotimes.com; 546-6140.



Make plans
  • What: "The Princess of Forever (An Enchanting Evening With Holly Claus) and Dream Tree Lighting," a collaboration between Allan Friedman and Brittney Ryan, and book signing.
  • When: Story time and book signing with Ryan and Friedman will be at noon today at Barnes & Noble, 705 Sunland Park, 581-5353.
  • When: Concert musical will be at 4 p.m. Sunday, followed by Dream Tree lighting at 6.
  • Where: Plaza Theatre.
  • Cost: $7; VIP tickets cost $35 at the theater and include signed copies of Ryan's book.
  • Information: Ticketmaster, 544-8444; Plaza Theatre box office, 231-1190.
  • Online: www.hollyclaus.com