Billy Baloo
Patricia Neal Stage

Billy Baloo

August 22 - September 14, 2024

Billy Baloo


Director: MJ Bruder Munafo
Musical Director: Bill Peek
Book by Michael Mason, newly adapted by Willy Mason
Music & Lyrics: Jemima James, Michael Mason & Willy Mason


A musical tale of love, gold, and beavers! 

1879. In the town of Solderville, high up in the Colorado Rockies, there live three gold prospectors and a floater, Billy Baloo. When the heiress of the Perfection General Store arrives in town, a dream is born. The town is transformed and its population explodes; bringing tasty vittles, love, strife, and danger. Fortunately Billy’s boat is sturdy and the beavers are on his side.

Michael Mason began writing Billy Baloo in 1973, inspired by the songs of Jemima James. He worked on it intermittently until he died in February of 2023. He had begun talks around its first staged production with MJ Bruder Munafo, artistic director of Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse. Willy Mason, son of Michael and Jemima, newly adapted the script for this small theater production and presents it here with MJ, Jemima, and his brother Sam, in loving memory.

Willy Mason
Willy Mason was born in 1984 in Tarrytown NY. His father, Michael Mason, was recording the first song demos for Billy Baloo on the Otari tape recorder in the next room. His mother, Jemima James, was writing songs that would later be incorporated into the play. A few years later his brother Sam was born and together they began studying to take over the family musical. Willy graduated from MVRHS. He has written and recorded 4 full length albums of music which were released internationally. When he is not touring and recording music he works for Oleander building and salvage.
Michael Mason (Writer)
Michael Mason was a writer and editor of non-fiction books including The Country Music Book, Psycho-Business Skills; and children's books including Clyde of Africa, The Book That Daniel Wrote, and Willie. He recorded an album with Mitch Miller for Columbia Records which has not been released, and he was a staff songwriter at Famous Music alongside his wife Jemima James. In the 60s he worked with John Hendrix and Yoko Ono on The Stone and other performance art and installations. Later he worked installing sound systems in prisons and other public spaces, and for the City Of New York testing computer monitors for electromagnetic radiation. His song Girl In A Tree was covered by many, including Burl Ives.
Jemima James (Writer)
Jemima grew up in Colorado and studied art at the Boston Museum School. In the early 70’s she and her partner, Michael Mason worked as staff songwriters for Famous Music, the music-publishing arm of Paramount. She has worked as a prep cook, farm hand, preschool teacher, and caretaker for the elderly. In the mid 80’s she and Michael moved to the island and raised their sons, Sam Mason, filmmaker, artist, drummer, and Willy Mason, singer, songwriter, writer. In 2016 Team Love Records released Jemima's double album and a new one is coming out in winter of 2024.
MJ Bruder Munafo (Director)
In addition to developing and directing plays, MJ serves as Artistic & Executive Director of MV Playhouse. She has been at the Playhouse in many capacities since she first appeared onstage in 1984. Her work as a stage director is extensive. Recent credits include MISS MAYBELLINE’S NOCTURNAL FLIGHTS OF FANCY, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, and the 12 x '20 PROJECT.
Bill Peek (Music Director)
Bill Peek has been a year-round island resident for six years. He serves as Organist and Music Director for the West Tisbury Congregational Church as well as for summer services at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs. He is the director of the Island Community Chorus, has worked with the Island Theater Workshop and served as Music Director for the MV Playhouse production of Angela’s Mixtape in 2018. Before moving to the Vineyard, Bill enjoyed an active career as choral director, music educator, and performer in the New York area. He has a life-long interest in traditional music and has performed widely and recorded with several different bands playing piano, guitar, banjo, and bass.