Friday, April 30, 2010

Too Damn Good Not To Post

As its run comes to an end at Ars Nova, the creative team is going all out to celebrate all that is Bloodsong. A ticket to this Sunday's performance will also buy you a ticket to Joegasm with a post-show concert featuring the cast, as well as Lindsay Mendez and Jay Armstrong Johnson. Need more convincing?

Watch this and I dare you not to be there.

Raising "The Kid"

If you live in or around New York City, I highly recommend getting down to Theatre Row and seeing The Kid. Based on the autobiographical book by sex columnist Dan Savage, writers Michael Zam (book), Andy Monroe (music), and Jack Lechner (lyrics) manage to write an incredibly touching story about a gay couple struggling through the adoption process. This musical was touching, hilarious, and really a wonderful story about relationships and family, examined through a lens that is rarely explored. The process of adopting a child already sets up huge, interesting conflicts and plot twists, and this particular piece spearheads the journey with strong leading characters who you really grow to root for. Terry and Dan are a very real couple, whose dynamics as they progress from a one night stand to loving parents are a joy to watch. The fact that Dan is also a sex columnist really frames the story nicely, and the narration of the story through Dan in a column-like manner works well for the work and also provides back story without being overly expositional. One thing that really helps move things along is the music. The tunes are easily digestible, a good amount even memorable, and wholly accessible. The lyrics flow with relative ease and there are some really nice harmonies/overlapping songs that beautifully show the complicated elements and conflicting views that arise from this emotionally charged situation. With an all-star cast with Broadway favorites Christopher Sieber, Ann Harada, Susan Blackwell, and Jill Eikenberry, the musical is packed with energy and heart. Not only do I look forward to more great things from these writers, but I also hope for a long life for this show.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Musical Theatre... and beyond

Last night's launch concert was like an incredibly tight compilation of six of your favorite band's greatest hits. Pasek and Paul, Adam Gwon, Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, Nick Blaemire, Ryan Scott Oliver, and Joe Iconis all channeled their superb brand of music and lyrics through a slew of awesome performers, creating an impressive soundscape of where young musical theatre is heading. Many of the songs featured on this blog were performed and there were many familiar faces, but the beautiful thing about this concert was the way all the music fit seamlessly together, while still having a distinct voice behind each piece. I watched Matt Doyle move from a romantic drunken piece about an encounter in New York City to inhabiting a seductive vampire preying on Emma Hunton's dreamy idealism of the undead. I smiled at Kelli O'Hara's back and forth with husband Greg Naughton after having been almost moved to tears by her recollection of a romance gone by. The music was transformative-- powerful voices that demand to be heard.

And what is most profound, perhaps, is the whole reason behind the concert. There's something incredibly reassuring about the idea that all of these artists can come together and form an alliance with one another, working towards a common goal. Because while even amongst just the original six songwriters and songwriting teams, each person has a diverse background whether their work has made it to Broadway, won awards, has earned them teaching positions, has toured the country, or has been recorded to CD. All of these voices unite to bring a dialog directly to the fans--to provide those in the community with great songs to be performed and shared, in a forum where these young composers can profit and communicate directly with the customer. I think it's encouraging, and I think that combining all this music only makes the works stronger and shine far brighter.

Many of the songs performed last night have had a video on here before. But here are some highlights that include new songs:

The opening number starring the cast from the night:

"Twisted Teeth" by Ryan Scott Oliver, performed by Emma Hunton and Matt Doyle:

"Fine" by Adam Gwon, performed by Kelli O'Hara and Greg Naughton:

"Ready to Be Loved" by Pasek and Paul, performed by Nikki James:

Also, be sure to check up on the New Musical Theatre website often... word on the street is that a bunch of new composers will be added in the next week or so, including Jeanine Tesori, whose song was the closing number of the night.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New Musical Theatre update

With the launch concert quickly approaching, I am thrilled with the slew of new artists whose work is sold and featured on New members since the original six are: Jeff Blumenkrantz, Paul Gordon, Salzman and Cunningham, Jonathan Reid Gealt, Gaby Alter, Michael Friedman, Kooman and Dimond, Jeremy Schonfeld, and Georgia Stitt. All of these new composers are incredibly talented and are offering a rather exciting variety of works. It's really wonderful for such a large group of amazing creative people to come together on one site. If you have money to burn, go spend it on some sheet music!

The other update I have for you is about New Musical Theatre artist Ryan Scott Oliver, who recently started a blog. With rantings and insights about writing and art and everything in between. Despite the fact that his tirade on the existence of the word "alright" sparked the nerdiest debate during lunch at my office, there's a lot of really interesting musings in here-- if anything, giving a glimpse into the mind of a music genius.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Joe Iconis and Company at Housing Works Tomorrow

I hate to favor one composer, but with all the promotional things Ars Nova and the Bloodsong of Love creative team are putting together, I figure everyone should take advantage. Tomorrow night at 5:30, Joe Iconis and friends will be putting on a FREE concert performance of Bloodsong songs as well as others at Housing Works in Hell's Kitchen (9th Ave between 49th and 50th Street). Go! And give in to the Bloodsong.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nevertheless, Here We Are

I don’t really remember how it happened, but four years ago I found myself driving cross-country singing along to the cast recording of Bright Lights, Big City at the top of my lungs. I didn’t get a chance to see the (rather short-lived) production of the show off-Broadway and I didn’t even read Jay McInerney’s iconic New York novel. But with a cast of powerhouses Patrick Wilson, Jesse L. Martin, Eden Espinosa, Christine Ebersole, Gavin Creel, Sherie Rene Scott, Sharon Leal, Anne Marie Milazzo, and Celia Keenan-Bolger making up the cast, I just had to see what kind of work could attract such a great group of talent.

And though the album’s timing and themes often bring about comparisons to Rent, the music and story stand on its own. Though some lines aren’t necessarily the most adept (lyrics of “I wanna have sex tonight” and “I love drugs and everything they do”), there is still a lot of truly quality stuff in here. Much of the music is rousing, evoking rushes of the light and energy of New York. The quieter songs are perhaps the most powerful—intimate and heart wrenching, full of psychosis and memory, disappointment and dreams. Standouts definitely include “Are You Still Holding My Hand,” sung here by Mary Michael Patterson from UMich:

And here is the lovely Sherie Rene Scott shining just as brightly as she does on the cast CD in a performance:

The music comes from the mind and talent of Paul Scott Goodman, a Glasgow native, who seems to delight in playing with sound, words, and music in every project he does. Though he came under a lot of criticism for the framework of his storytelling in Bright Lights, Big City, you have to give him credit: he experimented in writing a musical for a story whose source material is structured around an unnamed narrator.

Goodman’s last project to hit New York was Rooms: a rock romance, a two-person musical which featured Doug Kreeger and Leslie Kritzer in its off-Broadway run. Telling the story of a kind of odd-couple pairing who meet in Glasgow, the musical follows the duo as they begin writing music together, eventually ending up in New York where they are offered a chance at their big break. I especially like Michael Dale’s blog review and the way it describes Goodman’s play with language throughout the show:

“Goodman's score, which mixes conversational sections with pull-out songs, sets a musical difference between the two by having Ian express himself in a sound resembling acoustic, protest folk while Monica's influence is the strong-woman pop sound of the late 70s. But as they feel an attraction for each other Ian's sound becomes catchier, with more hooks, while Monica starts revealing harder edges. Another fun feature of the score is how Goodman has the characters occasionally quote popular song lyrics as part of their normal conversation, illuminating how the songs that touch you become a natural part of your language. It subtly adds texture to the two when Monica mentions riding in a ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ and Ian quotes ‘Within You Without You’ when confronting her about their relationship, but we can use some further explanation as to how Ian came up with ‘Every Day A Little Death.’”

Curious? See for yourself!

Here is an excerpt from Seth Rudetsky’s Sirius Satellite Radio where Doug and Leslie sing “Scottish Jewish Princess”:

And here is Jeremy Kushnier and Natascia Diaz singing “I Love You For All Time”:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Odds and Ends

So I'm currently on vacation, but still wanted to pop in to give some updates on some of the composers I've mentioned on this blog. Perhaps most significantly (to me anyway) was the announcement of this concert: The New Musical Theatre Launch Concert at Le Poisson Rouge. This concert, on April 26, will feature a slew of the writers/composers mentioned on this blog: Nick Blaemire, Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, Joe Iconis, Adam Gwon, Ryan Scott Oliver, and Pasek and Paul. It's an all-star line-up, and the theatre geek in me is so excited that I'm trying not to gush as I mention this event.

Also, for some "bloody" updates on shows recently mentioned/reviewed on this blog, Bloody Blood Andrew Jackson has officially opened to rave reviews -- many of which can be found here (gotta love StageGrade). Bloodsong of Love is also in full promotional swing, with a kazoo party in Union Square today and a post-show concert after tomorrow night's show. Apparently the show is sold out until Friday, but if you manage to get a $15 "splash zone" ticket or a $10 rush ticket, a free supernova drink, you've got the best deal in town.

Lastly, I just want to end on some gorgeous videos from Nick Blaemire's latest Songbook concert at Lincoln Center (wow, it would have been nice to be in the city for this):

David Hull (who recently made for a wonderful heartthrob in recent production of Calvin Berger) singing "New Home":

And Preston Sadleir singing "The Weather":

Friday, April 2, 2010

I don't know where I'd be if you weren't here with me...

When I look back at the time that has passed since my first Joe Iconis experience, The Blacksuits at SPF in '08, I'm embarrassed by how closely I've followed his career, how much money I've spent on his shows, and how much I adore just about every song that has worked its way into my brain. But I am not afraid to say that I am a huge fan of Joe's music and that I have never been so convinced that someone is destined for greatness. From his outlook on the business and his determination to keep his friends close, to the sheer talent of his music and the wit of his lyrics, if he creates something, I want to see it.

Needless to say, I have been highly anticipating Joe's latest show, a full length music done as a part of his residency at Ars Nova. Fully titled Bloodsong of Love: The Rock 'n' Roll Spaghetti Western, this show does not disappoint in bringing a distinctly Joe Iconis voice and presence to the stage in a hilarious, irreverent parody and send-up of the Spaghetti Western. For one thing, the usual suspects are all here, shining in their multiple roles. Eric William Morse gets his cowboy on, MK Lawson plays the camp out of her heroine role, and Jason "Sweet Tooth" Williams lends sweet vocals with some winking narration. Lance Rubin steals the show in countless areas as sidekick "Banana," and Jeremy Morse delights in creepiness and ruthlessness as the shows villain, while Katrina Rose Dideriksen brought the house down with a few choice notes and played a string of bizarre characters, including a footless prostitute.

The music, as always, was flawless. Not a weak song in the bunch with a lot of solid motifs that help carry the story through. There's the unforgiving rock undertone, but it gives way to a sound that sets the scenes for a Western show down. "Last on Land" only dazzles even more in context, and a string of other songs voices the dusty, worn hearts of an open road.

Anyone who has seen Joe's concerts will recognize some of his trademark humor throughout, and there are a few choice gags involving walks across the desert plain and lots and lots of blood.

Overall, it's a fun evening with a lot of unexpected twists. Believe the Bloodsong.