Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I Told You So

The Playscripts 10th Anniversary Gala on Monday was a blast. It was great to be in the company of many wonderful playwrights and to celebrate a happy milestone with a close-knit staff. But the real focus of the evening was the entertainment, and for a company that just started publishing musicals, the musical performances were truly remarkable.

Christiane Noll kicked ass singing "The Coming of the Dawn," which was originally sung by Hunter Foster in the Off-Broadway production of Frankenstein. Kristin Maloney made for an engrossing Dorothy Parker in a number from Talk of the Town. Dee Roscioli and Kat Hennessey singing "Ready to Settle" from High Fidelity made for a hilariously melodic cap to the excerpts from Check Please. And Nick Blaemire closed out the night with his sweet voice and musical abilities performing "Generation Apathy" from Glory Days. I still contend his voice is like buttah... and I've even had this confirmed by a few of my colleagues.

But the standout of the night for me was definitely Michael Friedman's song "The Song of Progressive Disenchantment" from The Civilians' (I Am) Nobody's Lunch. Devliered with booming indignation, this song told an entire story in a song, perfectly capturing the paranoia and disillusionment of the play with which it belongs. The performance was staggering -- hilarious, heartfelt, and at times jarring. The eventual disintegration of optimism at the end is a stark truth laid out in front of you, and Caitlin Miller showed no mercy in delivering those final lines. You can find a recording (not from the benefit, but this is pretty close) here.

I first heard of Michael Friedman through his work with The Civilians, having read (I Am) Nobody's Lunch, Canard, Carnard, Goose, and the beautiful Gone Missing. And while on paper the lyrics were clever, it wasn't until I heard the music that things came together in an incredibly magic way. The Civilians perform investigative docudrama pieces where they interview and research a particular subject without taking notes, and then later write out the accounts from memory. The subjects range from an absurd story of trying to find out what happens to the geese after "Fly Away Home," to the topical search for understanding about things that go missing.

I already mentioned Michael Friedman in connection to his latest project, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. And the music from that, along with his work with The Civilians, give an incredible look at what he's capable of -- lyrically challenging songs that are unafraid to tackle their subjects head-on. They are artfully crafted and unapologetic as they find answers through the progression of their melodies. I've always appreciated his work, but the more I seek out his music, the more I become a huge fan.

Michael has a lot of projects under his belt, including the Off-Broadway production of Saved at Playwrights Horizons, and Bloody Bloody is already slated to get a cast recording. But be on the lookout for more of his work with The Civlians, along with many more great songs along the way.

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