The Colonel’s Secret Recipe

Mort Zieve‘s wife Mary Lou is a tolerant and supportive woman. She somehow manages to sleep while her husband pounds away on the piano at 3 a.m. The chairman of Simons Michelson Zieve in Troy, Mich., isn’t trying to wake the neighbors or irritate his wife. He’s composing a dramatic musical based on the life of Civil War hero Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

Since he works full time at the agency, Zieve does most of his composing in the evening or in the wee hours of the morning. During the past year, he has composed some 16 songs for the musical, including the love song “We’re in the Dark” and “I Bequeath the World to You,” a number he dedicated to his daughter. Zieve says the musical is a “character study” of Higginson, who was also an author, a scholar, a leader in the abolitionist movement and a champion of equal rights for women. As a military man, he led the First South Carolina Volunteers, the first black regiment in the Civil War (and the basis for the movie Glory), and fought to get his soldiers paid by the government. “It’s a story about a forgotten man who should be honored by us,” Zieve says.

The idea for the musical came from E.M. Broner, whom Zieve has known since high school. Broner also wrote the lyrics. Zieve is planning a reading of the show in October in New York, which he hopes will generate interest for a workshop production. “Of course, I would love an off-Broadway production,” he says.