Sunday, February 27, 2011

Have any plans tonight?

Now you do! If you live in New York City, tonight is PACKED with musical theatre goodness that is begging to be seen.
  • You've got John Znidarsic's Songbook Concert Series at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center at 6:00 p.m., which will be featuring the music of Beth Falcone.
  • There's Are You Working on Something New? at Don't Tell Mama at 7 p.m., which will feature music from Gary Apple, Adam David Cohen, Mark T. Evans, Patrick Gallagher, William TN Hall, Jake Honoroff, Timothy Huang, Dave Hudson, Eric Kubo, Emmy Laybourne, Paul Libman, Jim Merritt, Andy Roninson and Katya Stanislavskaya.
  • Make your way to the Canal Room for an awesome double header. Kerrigan and Lowdermilk open with a set at 7:30 as a part of their their You Made This Tour, to be followed by a concert from writers, including songs by Michael Friedman, Gaby Alter, Sam Carner & Derek Gregor, Bobby Cronin, Drew Gasparini, Jonathan Reid Gealt, Paul Gordon, Michael Kooman & Christopher Dimond, Joshua Salzman & Ryan Cunningham, Jeff Thomson & Jordan Mann, and Will Van Dyke at 8:30 p.m.
  • And to top off your night, Joe Iconis' Things to Ruin will be back and badder than ever at (Le) Poisson Rouge, kicking off their latest 4 performance run at 10:00 p.m. (...and more on my excitement for this later!)
So what are you doing? Get out there and enjoy some new musical works!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Show me a world that's inside of a world...

I've mentioned Eli Bolin's wonderful work with the Story Pirates on here before, but I originally heard his music in collaboration with playwright Sam Forman on this hilarious song, "I'm Gonna Like This Play," sung below by Jared Gertner:

There's a kind of glee (not to be confused with "Glee") that infuses itself in their music and lyrics -- an energy that courses through the subject matter. Their songs are clever and smart, but always pushed forward by a fresh undercurrent of excitement in the moment. Sam Forman, Eli Bolin, and Benjamin Salka are also the creative team behind the musical I Sing!, which made its off-Broadway debut in 2001 -- and ever since, I feel like I've seen the title song pop up all over the interweb. (The cast recording is available through Jay Records here.)

Sam and Eli are currently working on a project that I'm eagerly anticipating: a musical adaptation of Rob Ackerman's Volleygirls about a high school girls' volleyball team. Having read the play on which the musical will be based, I'm really curious to see what they do with it. I couldn't think of a better songwriting team to really bring the movement of the piece to life through song. Here are some song performance clips from a D-Lounge show:

Gideon Glick and Allison Posner singing "You're Beautiful When You Play":

Shaina Taub singing "I Like Girls":

Watch out for these guys--both in their collaborations and their individual projects--as I think they have a lot more great theatre making in the future. Also, if you're free next Friday, see Eli Bolin's band, Amazing Jellies, for free at PATH Cafe in the West Village at 8 p.m.! Hear more from Amazing Jellies here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why I Blog

On the whole, I try not to write about myself in this blog and to instead put the focus on the works of so many artists I admire. I want this blog to be a place to share the music that really inspires me and the people behind it, and to facilitate discussions about where musicals are headed. But I was very excited to learn this past weekend that the blog is now a part of the Independent Theatre Bloggers Association, and a lot of things seem to be popping up lately where people are sharing their most significant theatre experiences, from Shoshana Greenberg's touching story about hearing The Secret Garden on Crazytown to Les Mis's huge contest running on So, if you will indulge me for my 100th post on this blog, I would like to share a little bit about my first significant musical experiences and why I started this blog.

A lot of people find it a little strange that I'm so interested in musical theatre. I'm not a performer by any means (the one time I auditioned for a solo in chorus in high school, the piano mercifully drowned me out so fully that no one could hear my voice cracking beneath it), and music has never been something I've been naturally inclined to do (I only let my mom force me to take piano lessons long enough so I could memorize one song to play as a kind of party trick. I once fooled my childhood friend's grandma into thinking I was a pro until she realized I'd just been playing "Fur Elise" over and over for an hour). While I do consider myself to be a playwright, at least part-time, musicals are always something I've found a little daunting to tackle myself.

So where does this passion come from?

The first major musical that I went to was The Phantom of the Opera. I was only about 8 or 9, growing up in Hawaii, which is a place that surprisingly has an abundance of local theatre. But professional tours like Phantom were a bit of a rarity, and I'd come to find out years later that whether or not I should go was a subject of debate between my parents because they didn't know if I'd be mature enough to appreciate it. My dad ended up winning out, however, and he prepped me in the months before the show by playing the cassette in the car all the time, and I even read and memorized most of the lyrics from a piano/vocal score we always had sitting out on our keyboard.

Before I knew it, I was wearing a velvet dress (yes, children wear the occasional velvet dress in Hawaii -- reserved for going to the theatre and taking awkward family portraits for Christmas cards) and making my way to the Blaisdell Concert Hall with my dad.

The truth of the matter is that I don't remember a ton about the actual performance. Part of it might be because the music was so burned into my brain that I couldn't help being a little self-conscious as lyrics scrolled across my mind while the actors sang them. Mostly, though, it was because within the first twenty minutes of the show, I remembered that the Phantom kills some people and I was suddenly overwhelmed by the feeling of impending dread as I was convinced that I was going to witness someone die on stage. In fact, I was so preoccupied with fear throughout the performance that it wasn't until I saw the movie somewhat recently that I even realized how the story ends. So I guess in some ways my mom was right about me not being quite ready.

Well, sort of.

There is one other moment that I remember clearly, and it came when Christine began to sing my favorite song of the entire show: "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again." It was a tune I insisted my dad blast in the car and that I poured over the lyrics to, trying to decode its meaning. Even in my state of utter dread, I still found myself getting lost in the song, having my breath taken away by the sheer drama of it -- the way the music swelled, the places where the actress found little pockets of contemplative quiet, the longing of the words that seemed to plead with the world for all the things they didn't have. It was and will always be a magical moment for me.

Since then, I've been hooked. I had a much more successful experience a year later seeing a tour of Les Miserables, which had me transfixed throughout in spite of the high body count. And after I moved away from Hawaii, I had even more opportunities to see shows, including my first Broadway show The Lion King and a particularly captivating production of My Fair Lady that still sticks out in my memory.

I also developed a very particular feeling as I watched these musicals that seemed to serve as a litmus test for gauging if I was really feeling a show. When I really loved a song, I was overwhelmed by a sudden attachment for it, a giddy kind of feeling where I'd be hanging on every word that was being sung. I felt the same excitement and restlessness that I used to get when I used to play basketball -- when I'd be sitting on the bench watching the game and really longing to get in there and take part. When I felt that for a song, I would secretly wish that it would never end, and it was the most thrilling thing I could imagine. Watching a young lover feeling compelled by being "On the Street Where You Live." Feeling the heartbreak of an unrequited love in "On My Own." These were the larger than life ideas that pulled me into musical theatre in its entirety.

Almost five years ago, I was having a rather rough year at college, and I stumbled across Joe Iconis' "The Answer" and I felt that same anxious, all-consuming feeling. Only it was a little different from what I felt with any of the musical songs before. Those other songs were so potent in their storytelling and emotion -- they invoked a kind of feeling that I aspired to. But "The Answer" startled me in how much I saw myself in the song, how I identified the specificity of it, the frustration of it, the utterly poetically painful parts of it. It was real and a bit of a mirror for me. Not only something inspiring, but reassuring too.

I still feel it. Look at any of the writers I've mentioned on this blog and their music has made me feel, at one point or another, the kind of magical giddiness and devastatingly self-reflective emotions I've both aspired to and have lived. And as a writer, I hope in both this blog and any of my projects to capture the things that I chase in these songs: to put the movement of song and rhythm of the human condition into words, whether it's an extra spacing between a line or a particularly scrutinized sentence. It's what keeps me going, and it's what I want so much to share and discuss with anyone who will listen.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Channel Surfing

I'm pretty sure that if I went to every new musical theatre show/concert coming up in the next couple of months, I would not only be exhausted but incredibly poor. Not that it wouldn't be worth it -- because there are a ton of great shows coming up (like this one and this one... also, this one... and this one). But while I've been seeing a lot of live theater lately, I also thought it would make for good conversation to point out some other sources for experiencing some new music, whether or not you're in the city.

Many writers have their own Youtube channel, and it's one of the best ways to keep up on their latest works and hear new songs. But there are also a lot of other Youtube channels out there that feature new musical theatre songs sung by incredibly talented people with new interpretations. I thought for this post, I would just share a few of my favorites:

Contemporary Classics is a theatre company that develops and produces contemporary musical theatre. They also post videos on their Youtube channel from their New Voices concerts, which are full of fantastic performers going to town on songs from a slew of new writers. I've posted a few videos on here before, but here are some other great performances:

Keely Avery singing Jonathan Reid Gealt's "No Reason At All":

Christian Duhamel & Jenny Shotwell singing Michael Mahler's "Couldn't You Stay":

Aside from Contemporary Classics, I easily lose all track of time watching videos from New York Theatre Barn, whose videos are the hugest treat if you're looking for fresh new songs. Their Youtube channel is regularly updated with their monthly shows from their D-Lounge. A few worth checking out (though if you want to get sucked in, check out their channel and watch them all):

Alex Brightman singing Kirsten Guenther and Gaby Alter's "Hit Song":

Amy Linden singing Eric March's "Weekend Away":

I've also been a longtime fan of the Urintown Youtube channel, which features performances from UMich's Musical Theatre program. While now there's a lot of varying content on the channel from Andrew Keenan Bolger's blog to episodes of The Battery's Down (which are also worth taking a look at), there are still some great gems from many benefits/concerts, especially The Girly Shows. Oldies but goodies:

Ricki Foss singing Marc Smollin and Kelly Dupuis' "Eduardo":

Cortney Wolfson singing Miller & Tysen's "I Could Go Back":

My last Youtube channel to check out is a recent discovery, but one that's been putting a smile on my face for the past couple of weeks. Alex Newkirk lends his effortless voice to showtune staples, as well as a bunch of newer composers on his Youtube channel.

Here's Alex singing Michael Arden's "Not Afraid":

And here is him singing Sean Grennan and Leah Okimoto's "The Lucky One":

There are, of course, tons of other resources out there. I'll continue to try to blog about them and post them here, but always feel free to share your sources for new music! It's always great to see new talent tackling new material!