Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year Wishes

This will be the last post of 2010, so when I was preparing to write it, I knew that it needed to be something good. First of all, I wanted to let all you readers know how much I've enjoyed keeping this blog for the past year and that I have a lot of plans for new content going forward (trust me, I'm well aware that I haven't even scratched the surface of some of the up-and-coming talent out there). Your thoughtful contributions and kind words are the reason I really wanted to write this blog, and I'm entirely grateful to have people who share a passion for music and theatre and talented people and everything in between!

I know that a common end-of-the-year thing in the blogosphere is the retrospective post -- some kind of top 10 list of things that have happened over the year. And though I could easily drum up the material for that kind of thing, I thought that I might want to end this year looking forward, instead of back. So, I came up with a list of 10 songs by musical theatre writers and how they represent some of my hopes/goals in the new year. Please give them a listen, and feel free to share your own in the comments if you feel so inclined! In no particular order:

1. Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's "Coasting" (sung here by Steven Booth, Farah Alvin, and Whitney Bashor)
Something that I always want to stress to myself is the importance of real connections -- learning to weed through the relationships that aren't as important and really work at the ones that are. "We are capable of finding, saying, feeling so much more." I think that line alone is something to aspire to.

2. Colleen Dauncey and Akiva Romer-Segal's "I Want It Now" (sung here by Sara Farb)
It's scary not to know what you want from your life, but it can be just as scary to know exactly what you want and fear that you're never going to get it. To be ambitious, you have to delude yourself to some degree, to make assumptions about the way your life will go so that you will have the confidence to achieve it. I think this song nicely balances the hope of having big dreams with the fears that are always beneath it. A friend and I always joke that you can't cross the line into doubt, because if you fully give in, it's really hard to ever come back from it. I think this is a song that reminds me of being confident and unyielding -- no matter what the cost.

3. Paul Scott Goodman's "Kindness" (sung here by Alicia Kakauer)
This song works on two levels -- the first being that it has a message that simply reminds me of the virtue of being kind. It's such a simple thing that I think is easy to forget (especially in the hustle and bustle of New York City), so to hear a character talking about how that idea was passed down through her family is reassuring in its own way. But in a bigger sense, one that is revealed through the irony of the song, this tune reminds me that sometimes perfect advice can come from imperfect people, and it's the value of what someone says that can be more important than the person who says it.

4. Adam Gwon's "Alaska" (sung here by Nick Blaemire)
Living in New York and having wanted to live here for years, I sometimes can't believe that people want to be anywhere else, in the world or in life. But over the past year, I've especially come to terms with the idea of resetting priorities and seeing the richness of living a different life in a different place. This song puts things in perspective in both a humorous and poignant way, and I think it's always a nice reminder of what else is out there to be explored.

5. Joe Iconis' "Last on Land" (sung here by Jason "Sweet Tooth" Williams and friends)
I know I've been a huge advocate of Bloodsong of Love all year and have posted this particular song on a couple of occasions, but I felt absolutely compelled to include this in the list because I can't think of another song in recent memory that so perfectly captures the camaraderie of working with people on something you're passionate about. In anything I do, I am determined to pay tribute to and appreciate those people in my life, and this song is a promise of that.

6. Drew Fornarola's "Prayer for Faith on Christmas" (sung here by Alexa Green and Bethany Moore
Performed at a recent Holiday Songbook Series concert at Lincoln Center, I find this performance breathtaking. While I can't say I'm a religious person, there's something about the very humble lyrics and beautiful music that is incredibly moving. In a song, it opens up a need for faith and reassurance of something greater without making overly dramatic demands. It's a nice reminder that we are never alone in our search for something greater and our need for faith in something when things are tough.

7. Michael R. Jackson's "Things Change"
It's a small variation on The Trevor Project's "It Gets Better" campaign, but it's incredibly effective. There's a great message here of accepting the reality of life's challenges but seeing the world for the ever-evolving thing it is. It's true and simple, but really quite lovely in the way it refuses to adhere to cliches while delivering a positive message about sticking around to see where life takes you.

8. Gaby Alter and Tommy Newman's "The Argument" (sung here by Blake Daniel with Nick Cartell, Ryan Duncan, Piper Goodeve, Lauren Marcus, Jared Weiss)
This song always manages to get to me, especially with the way the music slows and the heart of the matter is revealed in one simple line: "The one thing we agree on is we don't have very long." It's a song about perspective and the giving and taking of relationships, musicalized in a way that is uplifting and rather grave at the same time.

9. Brett Ryback's "Hymn for St. Anthony"
It's a simple song, but it has a wonderful message about the freedom of accepting that sometimes "we lose things" and is beautifully rendered through the accompanying piano. Bonus points for this particular performance: I love the humility of this rendition without the veneer of a more polished recording. Really brings the idea to full realization.

10. Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk's "I Drove You Home" (sung here by Emma Hunton)
Kerrigan and Lowdermilk really have a knack for finding ways of stretching little moments into musical experiences that transcend time and space. This song just represents a desire to absorb each moment, to feel its weight, and to be able to share it with other people.

See you in the new year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Trouble was that I forgot that love can make you sad...

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Davenport Theatrical's developmental reading of new musical Date of a Lifetime, with lyrics and book by Carl Kissin and music by Rob Baumgartner. The musical, which follows a couple on speed date as they imagine their lives together, was a fun ride that seems to have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. I'm excited to see where it goes and really enjoyed hearing people discuss their thoughts as the creative team continues to work on the show.

One of the things that struck me about the show was how beautiful the music was. I really loved the way it was constantly in conversation with the lyrics, punctuating jokes and building on itself with energy and wonder. Rob Baumgartner has collaborated with Heidi Helig on projects The Hole and Under Construction, the latter which features the following gorgeous song "The Man Who Isn't There" sung by Rob Baumgartner himself:

He also worked with Dante Russo on the family show Radiant Ruby, but the songs I've been playing most throughout this past week have been the beautiful songs of Rob's Adam Lives, which tells the story of a composer who leaves his home and wife to write a new single for pop star Jude Kane in New York. Watch the following songs from the show:

"Trouble Is" sung by Cait Doyle:

And "Pictures of the Border Signs" sung by Lindsay Mendez:

There's something really exhilarating about the way these songs explore romance and love -- examining both the thrilling and flawed moments of loving someone. The music isn't afraid to be quiet, to breathe, to contemplate, and most of all to feel the absence of someone or something who should be there. I love the way thoughts are broken down and deconstructed and pushed out into the world in moments that seem to take flight, and I highly recommend checking out all the music available at Rob's website.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spending Christmas Alone

In speaking of the holidays, just had to post this gem from brilliant playwright Young Jean Lee's new collaboration with Tim Simmonds as a part of One-Woman Show, the next show to be produced by 13P. Listen to the song "I'm Spending Christmas Alone" here, which is a fantastic tune that sharply captures the seemingly depressing, surprisingly liberating idea of spending the holidays like any other days. Here are some sample lyrics The New York Times ArtsBeat Blog posted that I absolutely love:

I wake up Christmas morning
No presents and no tree
No friends or neighbors calling
No loving family
I pour a bowl of cereal and turn on the TV
A hundred different channels
A hundred shows for me.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gifts that Keep on Giving

So while the holidays are rapidly approaching, I still thought I would do a quick post with some gift suggestions for a musical theatre enthusiast, whether they are a composer, writer, or just fan of the genre.

The most talked about theater gift this season is undoubtedly Stephen Sondheim's masterpiece, Finishing the Hat, which I am currently in the process of reading. Anyone interested in the theater will enjoy the anecdotes, and any writer will absolutely see the value in the beautifully laid out lyrics and Sondheim's comments on them. It's a really gorgeous book, and both its content and respectful packaging really make this perfect for any book collection.

As mentioned in past posts, Sh-K-Boom has come out with some really amazing albums this past year from many of the composers mentioned in this blog. New releases include Joe Iconis' Things to Ruin and cast recordings for Adam Gwon's Ordinary Days and Michael Friedman's Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. New releases on the way include CDs of work by composers Will Van Dyke, Jonathan Reid Gealt, and Scott Burkell and Paul Loesel -- so you can pre-order any of those as well. Also, remember the code EMERGING10 will still get you 10% off your order on the website at checkout until 12/31!

If you have an actor/singer to shop for, get them some sheet music through NewMusicalTheatre.com. Also soon to be available is the first book of Ryan Scott Oliver's music, which is now available for pre-order here. Or go the extra mile and get tickets to the RSO launch party at Joe's Pub on February 7 for a special someone, and every ticket will get you a free copy of the book.

Another nice gift can come in the form of an experience. I love to buy my friends tickets to shows, and what better to get you in the holiday spirit than getting seats for Joe Iconis' Christmas Spectacular next weekend? Also coming up? A Will Van Dyke concert at (Le) Poisson Rouge on January 17. Quality time and a show? Everyone wins!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Time Travel

With the launch of the new Facebook features today, it's becoming all the more apparent that the digital world is quickly expanding, and social networking in respect to musical theatre is no exception. In fact, I've seen grassroots campaigns flourishing over the past few years through the help of social media -- Kerrigan and Lowdermilk's very successful album Kickstarter campaign, the viral videos of University of Michigan MT students, and newmusicaltheatre.com, to name just a few -- and I've always been curious to see what the next big thing is going to be.

On January 11th, Mike Pettry and Heidi Heilig's musical The Time Travelers Convention is about to launch in a big way. Through Youtube, the musical will be performed as a kind of musical radio broadcast, and shortly following the launch, audio will be available to download both as a podcast and cast album.

The Time Travelers Convention was inspired by a convention held by MIT students in 2005. The musical tells the story of 3 nerdy high schoolers who, hoping to find a way to go back in time to change their pasts, begin planting invitations to a convention in library books in hopes that someone with access to a time machine in the future would see the note and attend. When a stranger actually shows up at the party, the 3 teens must then deal with the idea of the past and learn how to live in the present.

Besides having an innovative plot, the music is fun and you can listen to much of it here. Mike Pettry, in addition to being a great musician, also has a great selection of songs both from The Time Travelers Convention and his other projects available on his website.

I'm very curious to see what this January 11th premiere has in store. It's an interesting concept -- one that is especially intriguing given the time travel themes of the piece. After all, even though this is a digital launch, the idea of a radio play is quite traditional in many respects. Also, the resonant themes give the idea a great through line, and I am most curious to see if people are going to be inspired enough by the material in the digital ether to materialize the show in their theaters.

Who knows what the future holds.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It Won't Be Long Now

I try to refrain from writing about Broadway offerings, since I really want this blog to reflect all the talent that hasn't yet hit the Great White Way (and there's so much of it out there, I could go forever without even mentioning a Broadway show). And especially in light of some original new musicals closing on Broadway, I think it's becoming more and more apparent that success doesn't always need to be tied to a huge theater or expensive production. Still, I want this blog to be about the musical theatre that can be electric, all-encompassing, and I while I've had those moments in smaller venues lately, last night I was reminded that I could feel that way on a grander scale as well.

Lin Manuel Miranda is well on his way to being a musical theatre hit maker, making a huge Broadway debut with In The Heights and quickly moving onto other jobs working on the current revival of West Side Story and a musical adaptation of Bring It On. I had the pleasure of seeing In The Heights in one of its first previews and it's been my go-to show when I've had friends or family in town. It's been an instant crowd pleaser, and I've always been amazed at how it's resonated with so many different audiences, especially my friends who aren't especially interested in musicals.

Last night, I revisited the show when I got tickets for a dear friend's birthday, and I found myself excited to not only experience the show again but to share it with my friend as well. And upon another viewing, I was able to truly appreciate the intricacies of Miranda's well-crafted lyrics. Having seen the original cast, I thought it would be difficult to recreate the chemistry and energy of those characters, but the material holds up well with new actors and takes on new meaning with fresh faces. Though I understand criticisms of the show's lacking book and surprisingly traditional plot lines, watching the show last night really made me realize how the show is about Miranda's music and showcasing the world and characters he so skillfully whittles with words.

The precision of the rhymes manage to avoid cliche, never seeming cheesy but always seeming accessible. While some may argue that the subject matter deserves a vision that is more edgy, I find the buoyancy of every song important to immerse the audience in unfamiliar territory. It's easy to say the characters fit general archetypes, but the details with which they express themselves in song shows how music truly helps transcend language barriers -- take for instance how, regardless of how my mom kept asking why the abuela character kept singing about "color" (which was actually "calor"), she understood very clearly the complex theme of immigrating and building a home in unfamiliar territory.

I felt a sense of pride coming out of the show, and I have to admit, though I HATE talkers in the theater, I love the way people can't help but respectfully 'ooh' and 'ahh' at choice parts. These are characters and songs that people relate to enough to want to interact with them -- and it never ceases to amaze me. Perhaps the best part was being able to share the night with my friend who said herself that it gave her a new appreciation of being a New Yorker, which, while not necessarily a ringing endorsement for the realism of the piece, is a sign that musical theatre continues to succeed in being transformative on the stage.

Anyway, for sticking with me through this gush-fest, I leave you with some videos of Lin Manuel Miranda genius: In The Heights' Tony performance of "96,000," Lin Manuel Miranda's Tony acceptance speech, and his recent Alexander Hamilton rap at the White House. Also, try to see Lin doing his thing when he returns to "The Heights" fort he last two weeks of the run, starting Christmas Day!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Where We Give Thanks

So, in honor of Thanksgiving, I just wanted to say a big thanks to all the readers this past year.This blog is quickly coming up on its 1 year anniversary, and I've been so thankful for your thoughtful discussions, comments, and emails. I look forward to continue to cover composers and hope you'll stick around and take part!

And in the spirit of Turkey Day, I leave you with the always elegant "Mark's All Male Thanksgiving" from William Finn's Elegies, sung here by Paul Lessard:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Aren't we all a little crazy when it come to love?

I first heard of Drew Gasparini when I saw this video from Emma Hunton's concert at (le) Poisson Rouge where he smoothly finesses a cover of Damien Rice's "Volcano" (with the always lovely Emma):

So imagine my excitement when I found out that he also writes music. And it's good.

Two of his musical projects (with books co-written by Louis Sacco) Crazy, Just Like Me and Circles, both explore human relationships, examining love, hope and human connection and feature gorgeous songs that slow big moments and emotions, prodding and finding greater meaning in them.

A couple of my favorites from Circles includes "What Remains" (sung here by Jennifer Damiano and Matt Doyle):

"Two Little Lines" (sung by Anna Ty Bergman):

Drew is also a recent addition to NewMusicalTheatre.com, where you can download his sheet music for songs like the following "My Year" (sung by Alex Ellis) and the hilarious "The Text Message Song" (performed in Cait Doyle's Hot Mess in Manhattan):

Monday, November 8, 2010

Was I enjoying myself or just wasting time?

Due to a work commitment, I'm pretty bummed that I won't be able to make Gaby Alter and Tommy Newman's concert for 29: A New Musical tonight at Joe's Pub. But if you have an open evening, you totally should. You can listen to the awesome music at Tommy Newman's site, and I can only imagine it will sound better live.

Here is a performance of one of my favorite songs, "Twenty-One," performed by NYU Tisch:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Beautiful

I am so glad that I was able to attend Peter Lerman's show tonight at The Laurie Beechman in New York. It's been a little while since I've gone out to a show, and after listening to many of his songs (and having blogged about his music a little while ago), I've been dying to be able to hear them sung live.

I have to say that I really had a great time and found it to be a really lovely evening of some really nice songs. There was a subtle, quiet beauty to the whole affair. The music itself was entrancing, notes and lyrics gently carving out the landscapes that many of Peter's songs describe. Peter mentioned how he loves things that are old (as shown by the classic lucky Phantom of the Opera shirt he was wearing), and there's definitely a sense of time and place in all of his songs. Many of them describe ghosts and moments that may have already passed, but they're also filled with an appreciation and awareness that keep them poignant. All the songs stood on their own, but sometimes even a simple introduction or story from Peter's own life made them all the more intimate, adding yet another layer to already rich songs.

And as much as history and time play a prominent role in his music, tonight also showcased his pop sensibilities. After all, who else tells an anecdote about suggesting Ke$ha's "Dinosaur" or Eminem's "Stan" for his obligatory cover, and follows the story up with a cover of The Killer's "Human"?

If/when videos are posted, I will definitely post them. But in the meantime, go to his website and download his songs (I definitely left tonight with a new appreciation for "Out of My Hands") and enjoy the following music video of Peter Lerman singing "Abraham," which was the encore song tonight.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

It may have just ended its run at the Yale Repertory Theatre, but that doesn't lessen my enthusiasm about the recently mounted production of Adam Bock and Todd Almond's adaptation of We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Based on the book by Shirley Jackson, this twisted classic was just waiting to have the musical treatment like the upcoming Matilda adapted from Roald Dahl's awesome novel. Adam Bock is already a well recognized playwright in his own right, but Todd Almond is definitely up-and-coming, having worked on the music for Marcus Gardley's On the Levee and having written the book for the musical Girlfriend, which had its world premiere Berkeley Rep this past spring. Below are the trailers for the Yale Rep productions, along with a video of Jonathan Groff singing "At Sixteen" from Todd's Kansas City Choir Boy:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Concerts and Clips

It's definitely my bed time after a long week, but I happened upon these freshly uploaded videos from Michael R. Jackson's concert at Joe's Pub this past Monday (which I would have given anything to go to, were I not stuck on a plane) titled So Fucking Gay: A Michael R. Jackson Song Thing.

These videos are really striking to me for a few reasons. First of all, it reminds me that I should really mention some of the amazing concerts coming up in the next month in New York from some composers who I have mentioned on the blog and am absolutely loving discovering their music right now. Some of the old favorites are doing shows (Joe Iconis is having his Halloween Special on 10/31 at the Laurie Beechman and a performance of his musical ReWrite will be at Joe's Pub on 11/6; The Civilians are doing their Let Us Ascertain You at Joe's Pub on 11/4), but I'm especially excited to see some live performances for the first time from some other writers. The three shows in particular I'm hoping to get out to are: Astronauts, Bedbugs & Other Killers, the music of Paul Leschen and Fred Sauter at the Laurie Beechman on 10/27, Peter Lerman's New York debut concert at the Laurie Beechman on 11/1, and
Tommy Newman and Gaby Alter's 29 at Joe's Pub on 11/8. I highly recommend any of these and will definitely be trying to get out to as many as I can.

The other reason these Michael R. Jackson videos are also keeping me up is that I'm just so captivated by his style and the intricacies of his work. Not only does he create a uniquely personal snapshot in every song, but I also find it amazing that the more detailed and complicated the characters in his songs get, the more universal their experiences seem. He's not afraid to shock or pit characters against each other, themselves, or the music, which occasionally gets messy but always pulses of something true.

Anyway, please enjoy two of my favorites and keep up with new songs through his youtube channel found

"Memory Song" sung by James Jackson:

"Secretly Hoping" sung by Molly Hager (when this song transcends words, it takes things to another level):

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Subway Songs

...In speaking of New York-centric song cycles, here's another that has snuck its way into my head via youtube videos. The Subway Songs is the first musical collaboration of Canadian-based writing team The Collabos, also known as Colleen Dauncey and Akiva Romer-Segal. Familiar subject matter ranges from the walk of shame to spotty cell phone reception, but all the songs are quite tuneful and find small pockets of meaning and charm in familiar scenarios. Check them out for yourself below and be sure to visit their youtube channel here for more.

"Walk of Shame" performed by Sara Farb:

"It's Been a While" performed by Sara Farb and Evan Alexander Smith:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wall Lovin'

Can I just say how much I've been ADORING the song "Wall Lovin'" (performed below by Jeremy Jordan) by musical theatre writing duo Sam Carner and Derek Gregor? It's a part of their song cycle Sing, But Don't Tell, a revue of songs about the isolation of living in New York City, and I think this song is a perfect example of the humor, confessional quirkiness, and ultimately liberating interpretation of that theme. Check out other songs from Sing, But Don't Tell at their website, as well as music Carner and Gregor's show Unlock'd, which was "Best of the Fest" at NYMF in 2007.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ridiculously Talented Composers (Period)

This post is overdue, but it's one that's quite important to me... and the whole purpose of this blog, really.

About a week and a half ago, I took myself out on a date to see the Kaufman Center's Ridiculously Talented: Songs by Composers and Lyricists You Probably Don't Know But Should. Hosted by William Finn, the night offered a great selection of talent from NYU's graduate Musical Theater program with a bunch of incredible performers giving voice to their creations. Some of these writers have been mentioned on this blog before and some I had never heard of, but possibly one of the coolest parts of going to this event was hearing William Finn give a mini lesson in the art of writing songs. Where else are you going to hear someone explain that the job of a composer is to "not fuck up" or that writing lyrics can be compared to a Turducken (a lot of meat in a very small package)?

While there was a lot going on onstage, there was also another show going on in the aisle in front of me, as 3 older gentlemen watched the show. Their sighs and bragging about having seen "everything on Broadway for the pat 40 years" already kind of warned me that this event might not exactly be their type of thing, but I certainly didn't expect when one of them launched into a tirade at intermission about how what we were watching wasn't musical theatre but "conversations set to pop music."

Which is not to say that I don't feel like he has a point. The cabaret-style music was definitely the trend of the evening, and while it was appropriate for the event, I can see how it can get a bit tiresome. Also, with many musicals taking on a very "contemporary sound," distinct voices and melodies seem to be harder to come by these days.

And at the same time, I wanted to point out that musical theatre is changing with the times-- a necessary evil that doesn't diminish the genre, but helps it endure. While I love the days of On the Town and Oklahoma, subject matter is shifting so that it's not always about young, white heterosexual couples finding love. In fact, I loved the observation made by Mary Anna Dennard on The New York Times Arts Beat Blog about how now, despite the proliferation of musical theatre "types," views of masculinity and masculine characters have shifted from that of the "masculine neutral presence." Musical theatre is becoming more encompassing of the community that creates it, and this couldn't have been more evident in the incredibly personal and intimate songs, from Michael R. Jackson and Kori Withers' "Old Mr. Drew" to Will Aronson and Sam Salmond's "Pole Song" to Nikos Tsakalakos' "My Trip to Africa" to "Driving Home on the Freeway" by Katya Stanislavskaya and Frank Terry.

When his angrier friend stepped out during intermission, one of the men in front of me turned back and asked me if I knew anyone in the show (he assumed I was an NYU student supporting a friend). I explained that I wasn't and was instantly met with another question. "Then may I ask why you're here?" he asked. And it was a question that caught me a little off-guard.

I gave him a simple, honest response, but I don't think I really had an answer until I realized how swept up I had gotten in some of the songs from the show long after it was over. I'm not exactly musically inclined, but something comes over me when I hear a good piece of musical theatre. There's a kind of magic in hearing a song that seems to perfectly describe a moment-- a high that makes you hope the song will never end so you could capture that instance forever. There's an art to it that escapes me, even as a writer, where the lyrics take on dimension and rhythm and music carries it off any page. I love that feeling, and it's the reason I started this blog and the reason I was captivated throughout the show. William Finn provided some context for many of the songs that evening, trying to also root them in his mini lesson about craft, but for all I could tell, there was another force at play and I was just lucky to take it in.

Anyway, enough babbling. I look forward to much more from everyone who was represented that evening. And, just so you can't say you've never heard of them, here is the full list of writers from that night:

Josh Freilich
Seam Patterson
Will Aronson
Tony Asaro
Julian Blackmore
Yea Bin Diana Oh
Sam Salmond
Nikos Tsakalakos
Janet Allard
Dimitri Landrain
Dan Marshall
Anna Ruth Nirmala Jones
Julianne Wick Davis
Zach Redler
Sara Cooper
Kori Withers
Michael R. Jackson
Jennifer Stafford
Bill Nelson
Joel Waggoner
Becca Anderson
Rebekah Melocik
Gihieh Lee
Scott Murphy
Hannah Kohl
Katya Stanislavskaya
Frank Terry
Deborah Abramson
Rachel Sheinkin

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A big day for cast recordings

Hey guys! Today is the official release day for the cast recordings of Ordinary Days, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and the digital release of Things to Ruin: The Songs of Joe Iconis. If you're buying these albums, take advantage of the discount EMERGING10 on the Sh-K-Boom website.

Also, to mark the occasion, I have an Ordinary Days CD to give away. Just be the first to email me at emergingmt@gmail.com the rest of the lyric to this song by Adam Gwon from Ordinary Days:

"Fine, I'll bring the red and you'll bring the white, that way..."

(Hint: the answer is in one of the performance videos posted in a past blog post.)

I'll notify the winner by email. Happy listening!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Give a little bit... (or a lot)

Want to be a part of the process of recording a CD? Want to help a fantastic songwriting duo get their music out? Trying to figure out what to do that large pile of cash you were going to burn before you realized you were out of matches? Good news! Kerrigan and Lowdermilk are making a CD, and they need your help! Visit their Kickstarter page and make a contribution. Not only are you helping two amazing artists produce their quality work, but there are also some really fun bonuses they're offering in exchange for your money (private concert, anyone?). Check it out, open your pocketbook (or wallet, as I hear they call it these days), and listen to their music on their website to get a preview of what's to come. Everyone wins!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Matilda, a Musical

I got an email today from the Royal Shakespeare Company and am so freakin' excited about their announcement about an upcoming production of a musical adaption of Roald Dahl's Matilda at The Courtyard Theatre. You can see the trailer here. Not only did I love the book Matilda growing up and think that all of Roald Dahl's stories contain enough whimsy and magic to justify a musical, but it also boasts a book by Dennis Kelly and songs by Tim Minchin. A couple years ago, Tim Minchin was playing a show at New World Stages, and I had a very memorable experience hearing him sing a particularly... "touching" song at Cast Party at the Birdland:

With the cleverness, humor, and slightly dark twist Minchin will undoubtedly bring to the mix, I think this is going to be a great show. If you're between the ages of 16 and 25 and you book on a Tuesday, you can use the code 1625 to get a free ticket. For any other day, 16-25 year olds can use the same code to get a ticket for just 5 pounds! The show will be running November 9 - January 30. If you're lucky enough to be in England and see it, please report back!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Thanks to everyone who left comments to win the Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson cast recording. All the ideas were great, and I'm posting them below. However, rather than draw this announcement out, I am proud to announce the winners: musicaltheatreblog and Colleen! Congrats and thanks again to everyone who entered. Winners, please email me your addresses at emergingmt@gmail.com so that I can get your prizes to you! For everyone else, remember that you can still use the coupon code EMERGING10 at checkout on Sh-K-Boom's website to get 10% off your purchase. Also be sure to check back here often for other giveaways.

Here were the great ideas that were submitted for historically inspired musicals:

I would really enjoy a musical based on the Brown v. Board of Education court case. It would make a great large-cast musical with a traditional score. Each of the thirteen plaintiffs would tell their story, similar to A Chorus Line, and it would end with the ruling being made.

After learning a little about the interesting relationship between Clara Wieck, Robert Schumann, and Johannes Brahmes, I believe that Clara's life would make an excellent musical, play or movie. Clara was a talented musician who is too often overshadowed by the famous composers she loved and helped promote.

Might be interesting to do a musical from the McCarthy Era and Cold War. So many interesting things happened during that time that we often forget about: suspecting spies, going against Communism, JFK, his assassination, MLK assassination, McCarthism, etc.

I think it'd be pretty hilarious to have a Dada musical, although I cannot imagine how bizarre that music would be or if the songs would be very, uh, catchy. Frida Kahlo would be a really fascinating subject as well, or a really intimate Emily Dickinson musical, or one about the sculptor Camille Claudel and how Auguste Rodin ruined her life. Or does Einstein have a musical yet? That would be brilliant.

I'm afraid the South Park folks may be about to corner the market on religious satire musicalizations, but I always thought Jimmy Swaggart & the Jimmy Swaggart Ministries would make a fascinating, hilarious subject for a stage musical. I'm picturing a flashy gospel-rock score, big musical numbers with a chorus of singing, dancing prostitutes & a huge, tear-filled 11 o'clock number. (Damn. I really WOULD like to see that.)

I also think that Phil Spector's life & music would make for a more riveting & satisfying night at the theater than a show about the Four Seasons. It could be a jukebox musical like Jersey Boys, only exponentially more interesting (and I'm sorry to say, better music)!

I guess I'm more into contemporary figures. It's hard to pull off a major period musical. But I guess Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson defied the odds!

This is an obscure choice, but I wrote a paper years ago on female spies in the Office of Strategic Services during WWII, and one of the spies, Virginia Hall, had this incredible life story. She was set to join the Foreign Service in the 30s until she suffered a hunting accident that forced the amputation of her leg... but that didn't stop her from driving ambulances in France. When France was invaded, she worked for the Resistance, parachuting behind enemy lines, leading multiple guerrilla forces against the Germans, even escaping France at one point by crossing the Pyrenees on foot in November! Generally a very badass lady with a great story of overcoming disability to further her passion for the cause... I envision some pretty intense dramatic/suspenseful numbers, and a comedic one when she decided to nickname her wooden leg "Clyde."

Thanks again for all the thoughtful comments!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Straight from the Silver Screen

There is one day left in the contest to win a copy of the cast recording for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, so see the post below to get on that! It's easy to enter and there have already been a lot of great ideas circulating in the comments section. I'm hoping to also post the musical ideas along with the winners on Thursday so spread the word and get your entries in!

It's no secret that musical adaptations of movies have exploded in popularity over the past years. In fact, the translation between the screen and stage can be so incestuous, a book can begat a movie that can begat a musical which can begat a movie musical...and so on and so forth. And while the success of a stage musical capturing what we love most about the movie it's based on ranges wildly from show to show, I have to admit that one of the shows that will be doing a presentation at the upcoming NAMT festival that most caught my eye was an adaptation of the movie Heartbreakers. In case you missed out on this gem from 2001 starring Sigourney Weaver, Ray Liotta, and Jennifer Love Hewitt, Heartbreakers tells the story of a mother-daughter con team that runs into trouble when the daughter begins to fall for what she thinks is her wealthy mark.

My interest in this show is partly nostalgic-- I remember being on a school overnight where we all went to the movies. We had a choice between Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Heartbreakers, and, surprise surprise, almost every hormonal teen went for the romantic comedy and Jennifer Love Hewitt playing a seductress. But I'm also interested in seeing what the show's talented creative team does with this material that really contains a solid, rather traditional plot set-up. With collaborators Robert Cary, Benjamin Feldman, and David Gursky, who are NAMT alum with their show Palm Beach, all the writers have impressive resumes spanning from West End adaptations to film and television credits.

Another recent musical adaptation of a film to come to light was the concert presentations of Heathers (by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O'Keefe) at Joe's Pub last night and tonight. Sold out for all performances, I'm interested in hearing more about this project as it continues development. Obviously the source material is full of campy musical potential.

To further illustrate the potential of musical adaptations, even at their most outlandish, I leave you with a few of my favorite videos from "Hey, You Know What Movie Would Make a Good Musical?" which was performed at the Zipper Factory. With music, lyrics, and books by Hey You Know What Productions, this show featured songs and scenes from potential musical adaptations of films, from Twister to Scream.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Win the Cast Recording for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson!

Hey all! So if you've noticed on the calendar, the cast recording for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is officially released on September 21st. The show starts its Broadway previews on September 20th and whether or not you caught it at The Public, I highly suggest you get down to the Bernard Jacobs Theatre where you can experience the bloody goodness for yourself. Featuring an awesome score by Michael Friedman, whose work I absolutely adore, the cast recording for the show makes for a great way of reliving all the angst and pathos of one of our most iconic presidents.

The wonderful people at Sh-K-Boom have given me two cast recordings to give away on the blog, and I couldn't be more excited and thankful to be able to pass on this music to you guys. So, I thought it would be fun to have a little contest to get a fun discussion going and give you guys a chance to put in your entries for a kind of lottery.

All you have to do is comment on this blog post with an answer to this question: what historical or academic figure do you think deserves the musical treatment and how? Think the theatre world is sorely lacking a song cycle centered around Paul Revere? Have you been itching for an Andrew Lloyd Weber-esque story about Emily and Charlotte Bronte? The sky is the limit. There is only one comment/entry per person, but if you tweet a link to this blog post and include the link in your comment, I'll count it as an extra entry. The winners will be drawn at random and announced next Thursday on 9/16, and I will no longer count entries past 11:59 on Wednesday, 9/15.

Good luck, all!

Edit: Also, as a bonus for those of you who want to forgo the contest and just buy the album, Sh-K-Boom also generously offered a coupon code. Put in EMERGING10 at checkout when ordering from their website, and enjoy 10% off all their products until 12/31/10 (and shipping is always free to the USA!)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Penny Dreadfuls and other things most dark

The month of August was full of Joe Iconis love at the Laurie Beechman where Joe and his crew performed almost every Monday night at 9:30 with a few special guests in between. I was lucky enough to get a good seat for his last show in the series where Annie Golden and Lisa Brescia were the guests of honor.

It's been a while since I've enjoyed a Rock and Roll Jamboree, and I know I gush about Iconis often, but this really is one of the best ways to view his work. It's one of the few theater events that even my non-theater going friends get excited for, which makes my heart really swell for a few reasons. First of all, it's nice to have something I can share with them, and the universality of the experience is wholly thanks to Joe's great music and the explosive passion of all the people that join him onstage. Watching the show and listening to some amazing new songs, I rediscovered what a great voice Joe is for our generation, capturing youthful energy and frustration, longing and confusion, and always humor that is never without consequence.

Here are some highlight from the August Jamborees (and if you haven't watched Heidi Blickenstaff kill the song "Ammonia," you better check that out too):

Jason Tam singing "Son of a Gun":

Jeremy Morse singing "Albuquerque Anyway":

Anthony Rapp singing "Lonely Woman":

Annie Golden getting it with "Joey Is A Punk Rocker":

And the beautiful "Starting to Forget," sung by Lisa Brescia (this was followed by a touching story from Joe about how it was written for his grandfather...which was then followed by him scolding the cast for talking through his touching story about kazoos in the background):

Monday, August 30, 2010

Leaving Eden

I knew I had fallen in love with Laurelyn Dossett's music the first time I listened to the recording of Beautiful Star. The music was rousing, intricate, and Laurelyn's voice itself created a hauntingly beautiful aura around it. When she offered to answer some questions for the blog, I was full of nerdy theatre excitement for many reasons. Besides being a fan, I also recalled a question a reader raised in a comment on one of my prior blog posts, asking what kind of up-and-coming musical theatre artists and projects are occurring outside of New York City. While the comment was geared towards the British theatre scene, it was a question that really stuck with me since then, and one of the things I find most exciting about Laurelyn's work is that it continually calls into question what is considered "musical theatre music," not to mention that it finds a solid audience in the South. Through collaborations with artistic director/playwright Preston Lane, she has created several musicals for Triad Stage in North Carolina, including Brother Wolf, a folk interpretation of Beowulf, as well as musicals Providence Gap and Bloody Blackbeard. So, without further ado, here is my Q&A with Laurelyn:

Me: Your music combines hymns with folklore, gospel, Appalachian music, and many other genres. How would you best describe your sound?

Laurelyn Dossett: Well that is the million dollar question....these days it would be called Americana or roots music, but there was a time when it was just called "folk." When I am writing songs for plays, I am trying to evoke place, time, and mood, as well as advance the story in some way. Since three of the four plays I have done with Preston have been based in the Piedmont or Appalachian region of North Carolina, I try to write each song in a style that might have been typical for the region and the time, with typical instrumentation. I can't tell you how happy Preston was the day a clawhammer banjo player showed up in his rehearsal hall! Our first show, Brother Wolf, was set in Appalachia in the 1800's, so there was a very definite style for that. Beautiful Star is set in current time but has a rural NC setting that allowed a wider range of styles, but still bluegrassy, country, old-timey. Bloody Blackbeard was a big departure musically -- still ballad-based writing, but it was hard to get the mountains out of the melodies. The most recent show, Providence Gap, got us back to Appalachia; in that one I got to use the music to tell the story of how mountain music got to border radio and made the transition from being an intimate folk music form to commercial country radio, that was a fun challenge.

Me: Not necessarily having a typical musical theatre style, how did you get into writing music for the theatre?

Laurelyn: I am fortunate to live in a city with an excellent Equity theater, Triad Stage. The Artistic Director, Preston Lane, had a vision for creating theatre for and of the region, respectful of the south and Appalachia in particular. Not interested in Hee Haw or Deliverance, if you know what I mean. Apparently he had entertained the idea of collaborating with a regional songwriter for some time. I have a song called "Leaving Eden;" it is contemporary ballad about the closing of the textile mills in nearby Eden, NC. The song ended up on a BBC news report about the end of Chinese textile trade quotas, and voila! Preston and I live one mile apart, but met through BBC radio. He heard the song and thought I might have a similar storytelling sensibility. And thought I might just be fool enough to get into theater!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What the what??

Just saw this video and have yet to pick my jaw up off the floor! Joe Iconis and family have been doing shows at the Laurie Beechman every Monday at 9:30 this month with special guests, and this video of Heidi Blickenstaff singing brand new song "Ammonia" is pretty mind blowing. If you like it, make your reservation for the last show of the month next Monday!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Please Don't Suck

"Jeremy Desmon and Vadim Feichtner have been referred to as 'the Rodgers and Hart for the new millennium.' But maybe that’s because one of them is a misogynist and the other is an unrepentant drunk."

...And so reads the short bio blurb on the Joe's Pub show page to advertise their concert, Desmon & Feichtner Continue to Disappoint Their Parents, back in March. And that bio combined with some great tunes makes for theater with a nice balance of humor and sentiment. So, because I've been loving these for the last month of so, here are two awesome songs from their song cycle The Moment Before:

Allison Frenzel and Stephen Todd performing "Please":

And John Geiringer, Allison Frenzel, Kyle Sandall, and Cami Philgreen performing "A wink and a nod":

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Best Summer Ever

It's festival time here in the city. The Fringe is now in full swing and soon NYMF will start, followed by the NAMT festival. It's an exciting melange of new works, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to experience even just a small sliver of the offerings this year.

Because I've mentioned it on this blog before when it was only in concert form, I am proud to say that I attended the first performance of Alaina Kunin and Bradford Proctor's Bunked! last night and had a really great time. There were some wonderful songs, touching characters, and it's a surprisingly wholesome, sincere show that explores sexuality and identity through the sunny eyes of a youthful summer. Check out the promo below (if anything, you'll be educated in the ways of "friendship sticks"):

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sitting Poolside

So I know I haven't been updating as frequently as I'd like, but there's a lot of great content and updates on the way in the near future, rest assured. In the meantime, I just wanted to pop in briefly to share some videos from the musical Pool Boy with music and lyrics by Nikos Tsakalakos and additional lyrics and book by Janet Allard, which recently finished a run at Barrington Stages. The premise is pretty great: Pool Boy tells the story of an aspiring musician who takes a job poolside at the Hotel Bel-Air for the summer, where he is seduced by the glitz and glam of the rich and famous. These clips come from an Ars Nova event last year and feature Kate Ferber, Nick Blaemire, Josh Segarra, and Cassie Wooley. Here are just a few of my favorites, but a whole slew of these clips can be found at Nikos Tsakalakos' youtube channel.

The title song "Pool Boy":

"She Swims":


Thursday, August 5, 2010

...And That's The Funny Thing

On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending a reading of Kyle Jarrow's Love Kills, a rock musical telling the story of teenage sweethearts who murder 11 people together. It's always exciting to see a musical in progress-- to hear the audience's reaction, to use your imagination for all the ways it could be staged, and to enjoy writing for the stage in one of its most basic forms. The dramatic tension of the play gives a lot to play with, a Bonnie and Clyde kind of story placed in confession rooms. The presence of the sheriff and his wife also offered great layers by showing different generations confronting their beliefs about love. There were a couple of really great moments and images that took on more significance as the show went on, and I am excited to see where the show goes next.

I was first introduced to Kyle Jarrow's work last year at one of the NAMT presentations of Hostage Song. Performed entirely with the two main characters in blindfolds, it was an emotionally taxing journey of two people being held captive abroad. It was ambitious and intimate-- not unlike Love Kills. Jarrow has also written the book and lyrics to Duncan Sheik collaboration Whisper House. He is perhaps best known for A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant, though looking at the theater listing on his website reveals a ton of projects in the works. One of my favorites also includes the song "All That You're Touching is Skin" from work-in-progress The Consequences, which can be heard below with "Let Him Be Good To You" from Hostage Song. Be sure to check out the diverse offerings of music, including selections from his music-specific projects.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

If I Wrote A Song: An Interview With Daniel Maté

So this blog post is a special one, if I do say so myself. A few weeks ago, the roster for the National Alliance for Musical Theatre was announced for the 2010 Festival of New Musicals. The festival itself is an event where writers and composers are able to show their works to members of the theatre industry in the form of 45 minute readings. Every year, 8 musicals are presented, and this year's selection boasts a slew of great writers and diverse subject matters. Please check out the full list of musicals here, and read about the writers as well.

I wanted to do something special to really highlight some of the talent that will be presenting their stuff at this year's festival, especially since it's an industry-only event. So in the weeks leading to the October 21-22 dates of the event, I'll try to highlight a show or a writer who has a show in the festival every few days in the coming weeks. To really get things going, however, I had the pleasure of sitting down with composer/writer
Daniel Maté (who wrote lyrics and co-wrote the book with composer Will Aronson for the show The Trouble With Doug) in Prospect Park for an interview. Daniel was a 2010 recipient of the Jonathan Larson grant, is a two-time finalist for the New York City Hip Hop Karaoke Championship, and has his own custom songwriting business. Together, we discussed NAMT, being a slug, hip hop, and existentialism. Intrigued? Confused? Here is the transcript from our interview (and after the jump, check out more interview and youtube videos of his music):

(Daniel Maté singing "If I Wrote A Song")

Me: So I think I read somewhere that you said that you didn’t grow up with musical theatre necessarily. How did you get into it?

Daniel Maté: I definitely said that somewhere. What I meant is, I guess, I didn’t grow up all that aware of the history of American musicals, or surrounded by it as a general part of my cultural experience. Part of that was knee-jerk resistance to anything my parents thought I would enjoy – I remember deliberately not watching the movie of West Side Story for that reason.

If I actually look back, I was surrounded by certain particular musicals, certain soundtracks that I loved. So
Fiddler on the Roof was a record that... this dates me a little bit... but an LP that my parents had. And growing up Jewish, I actually thought “Fiddler” was a sort of blueprint for what Jewish culture was supposed to sound like. I didn’t realize it was a Broadway show for not only for Jewish audiences. Little Shop of Horrors...the movie came out when I was 9 or 10. I loved it. And I went to a summer camp where we did a lot of singing and songs based on popular songs. Lot of theatre. And I acted most of my childhood and I played music most of my childhood and often I would do the two things together. So me saying I didn’t grow up around musicals, or didn’t like them, is a case of “the lady doth protest too much.”

I did develop an attitude about musicals though. That somehow there was a culture of musical theatre I wasn’t somehow a part of, so I had to have a chip on my shoulder about it. And that’s partly that I just wasn’t that familiar with it, and partly that I had a lot of assumptions, and partly that I didn’t want to open myself up to a form that takes time to get to know. I was, and am, an opinionated person, and unfortunately sometimes my opinions precede my knowledge.
(Smiles.) That said, I probably still have an attitude about musicals.

I spent most of my 20s working odd jobs and doing music and theatre on the side. Acting, directing, collaborating on shows in my hometown in Vancouver. And also at the same time being a singer/songwriter. Ani DiFranco was sort of my idol; Bob Dylan and Tom Waits.

It was really when it came time to ask myself what do I want to do with my life, I had to face what do I really love, what do I care about? I realized pretty quickly it was music and theatre and I didn’t want to choose between them. And once I got over the idea that grad school wasn’t for me, I opened myself to the possibility, and a friend who was from New York said, “You need to check out NYU.” So I looked and saw there was a musical theatre writing program, and I was like,
I love New York, but that’s not for me. And fortunately I have people in my life who kicked my ass and were like, “You’re a very theatrical and musical person and all of your songs tell stories and have a lot of character to them. Why don’t you take a leap into something you don’t quite know about?” And luckily I listened to them.

I applied and I got in. And in the program I spent 2 years facing how much I didn’t know and learning as much as I could. Also realizing I don’t have to know every lyric to every show to get the basic principles of what makes a good or bad musical and to figure out what it is that I want to write.

I had some big kind of epiphanies. Like realizing what Sondheim had to offer. I had him in a little box and that box didn’t include me. But the first Sondheim show I really encountered was
Sunday in the Park with George and although I don’t think it’s a perfect show, it blew me away, both in terms of ambition and execution. I just got excited and thought, Wow, this guy is doing amazing things with language. It reminded me of my excitement in discovering really great rappers who are able to take command of a verse and master the art of flow. Suddenly you’re on their wave length. It was a long process of opening my mind and it still is.