It’s amazing to me that there hasn’t been a major hit marching band musical that has made its way into every high school in America, but I have high hopes for Band Geeks!, a smart, infectious musical comedy about a small rag tag group of band nerds in Cuyahoga Falls who hope to actually compete in a competition. Written by Tommy Newman, Gordon Greenberg, Gaby Alter, and Mark Allen, the show features incredibly catchy and telling songs about the camaraderie and ambitions of young students who find confidence and understanding in their ability to make music. I saw a reading of this at this year’s NAMT festival, and I can assure you it’s as clever as it is delightful. There are demo songs available on Tommy Newman’s website (there are other songs/versions also available on the websites of the rest of the creative team), as well as this gem from Joe Iconis' Secret Show (notice Jason “Sweet Tooth” Williams and Lauren Marcus giving earnest, lovely performances):
The reason I bring up Band Geeks!, aside from my love of this show, is because I wanted to highlight the music of Gaby Alter. While Band Geeks! seems to be a rather seamless collaborative effort, Gaby’s work as a composer and lyricist has a contagious life of its own. Most of his musical theatre projects involve Tommy Newman, but I was first introduced to Gaby’s music when I stumbled across this gem:
There’s something about the combination of really engrossing, tuneful music mixed with simple narrative lyrics that really makes for an understated but meaningful piece. The little conclusions that often come over the course of a song pack an emotional punch in the simple way they reveal themselves. They seem to be truths that the character knows all along and eventually realizes is too hard to avoid. This is especially true for songs like “Twirler Girl,” “All Amateur Anapolis Marathon,” “The Argument,” “Deep in February,” among others. His musical 29 (written with Newman) particularly hits these marks. His understanding of humor is adept and precise in the way humor presents itself in the music, a perfect example being “The Princess and the Co-op,” but his more harmonic works also demonstrate an ability to evoke intimacy in even the barest moments like in “Orphan Thanksgiving.”
Aside from his work in theatre, he’s also written pop music, as well as music for children’s television, radio, video games, and a documentary. With a solid career going for him, I have no doubt that any endeavor of his will be effortless and fruitful, and Band Geeks! in particular looks like it’s off to a good start. More than anything, I find comfort in all of his works, proof that a strong, confident narrative voice can reveal truth and humor in the simplest of terms.