Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Obligatory Top 10 Post for 2011

'Tis the season for the end-of-the year best lists, and I am no exception to this time-honored blogging tradition. However, rather than listing my favorite shows from 2011, I thought I would change it up a little bit and list my favorite 10 new musical theatre composers/works I've discovered and gotten to know this past year (in no particular order-- I promise!):

There is not a performance where she hasn't set the stage on fire with her wonderful voice, awesome band/crew, and smoky songs. While I wish it didn't take so long for me to discover her music, she has quickly become one of the musicians this past past year I have been an evangelist for. Next year, she'll be the resident artist at both Ars Nova and Rockwood Music Hall, so expect to see even more of her (lucky us!).

The Shaggs by Joy Gregory, Gunnar Madsen, and John Langs
This show made my top 10 theatre things list for Crazytown, and I think this show will be on every top 10 arts list I will write for a long time. Heartbreaking, funny, and endlessly surprising, this show inspired me in every way possible and is a wonderful example of what the future of musicals can be.

Placebo: A New Musical by Danny Abosch and Joshua Borths
Listening to the recording for this new musical, I was amazed at how complex a story (and entire world) was built within this surprisingly layered and fascinating show. It was also nice to see such a large cast represented in a new musical that still blended larger life questions and intimate relationships with big songs and a big concept.

Speaking of podcasts, an amazing source of behind-the-musical goodness is listening to Musical Theatre Talk with Trish Causey. A musical theatre writer herself, Trish talks to composers/writers/performers/producers to find out about the process of putting a new musical on its feet.

Since finding out about them at the beginning of the year, I have been a huge fan of this company that promotes creative writing in schools by taking kids' short stories and turning them into musical skits. I've had the pleasure of seeing what they do in person, both as a volunteer and a spectator, over the past year, and all their work only further reassures me of the future of musical theatre.

The Civilians' Let Me Ascertain You podcasts
One reason I started this blog was because I loved how accessible new music was becoming through the internet. Youtube videos are a huge forum for new musical works, but I've absolutely loved seeing other ways people are bringing their shows to new audiences. Heidi Heilig and Mike Pettry have their fantastic The Time Travelers Convention podcasts, and The Civilians' are revealing their works in podcast form through their Let Me Ascertain You series (which you can subscribe to through iTunes here). Here's to hoping for more of this in the new year!

I owe a huge thanks to everyone who did the 5-question Q&A for this year's NYMF. It was wonderful getting to know your new shows and to see some of them kicking ass on stage.

Organized by the ever-charming Kyle Ewalt and Michael I. Walker, this regular event at 92Y Tribeca showcases some of the best up-and-coming musical talent in a forum where they can share new songs and talk about their creative process. While I've only gotten to attend one of these so far, I'm looking forward to going to many more of these in 2012.

The guys at The Online Musical have been busy this year with their mini-musicals projects. From Where's Waldo? to Pokemon, there has been lots of hilarity and musical adventures this past year in the form of these musical shorts.

While I have been aware of Michael Kooman and Chritopher Dimond before this past year, I have loved getting to know more about them and their work through their CD, Out of Our Heads, and their performance at the NYMF/ASCAP Showcase. They also just were awarded the Lorenz Hart Award from the ASCAP Foundation, so I can only imagine what the new year will bring.

More than anything, I just want to send out my sincerest thanks to all you readers and writers who have participated in the blog this past year. Whether new artists who I have gotten to know or writers I have been a long-time fan of, I really appreciate all of your help and input over this past year. Here's to seeing what new discoveries 2012 will bring!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Balls for Christmas

In the mood for a bro-tastic musical? The good people from Balls…the Musical?, by Bret Carr in collaboration with Mick Bonde, Brandon Ellis, Michael “Tuba” McKinsey, and Nick Verina, are offering a discount to see the show in the last week of its Off-Broadway run. Here is the info:

Following a sold-out and extended run at the 2011 New York Musical Theatre Festival, Balls…the Musical?, makes the move to Off Broadway for a limited engagement at Theatre Row.

Balls…the Musical? is a bro-mantic comedy about five overly masculine best friends learning how to live as fish out of water in the only business in the world where they are the minority...musical theatre.

SPECIAL OFFER: Tickets only $38! (reg price $69)

HOW TO ORDER: Visit and use code TRHHCBALLS

CALL 212.947.8844 and mention code TRHHCBALLS

RESTRICTIONS: This offer is valid for all performances 12/7 - 12/18. Subject to availability. Blackout dates and other restrictions may apply. Limit ten (10) tickets per order. Phone/internet order subject to service fee. All tickets include a $1.25 facility fee.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Keeping an Eye on Futurity

I mentioned in my holiday gift roundup that steampunk musical Futurity, with music by César Alvarez with The Lisps, lyrics by Mr. Alvarez, book by Molly Rice and Mr. Alvarez, will be featured in a concert at Joe's Pub this Friday at 9:30. Indie-rock band The Lisps will be singing songs from their concept album, also titled Futurity, and will be joined by Michael Ceveris and Ben Simon, Chelsey Donn, Grant O'Brien, Aaron Schroeder, Caroline Tamas and Jillian Tully, who perform on their soon-to-be-released album. Sample a couple of the songs by clicking the links below:

This is a musical of moving parts-- a show that transcends time, place, and technology through folksy song. I've heard about this musical for a while, especially with some friends being fans of The Lisps who have heard music from the show in various incantations, and there are a lot of exciting things up ahead for the show. The show will be having its world premiere at The American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA, in March, followed by performances at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN, in April.

Here's a little clip from the press release telling what the show's about:
Futurity: A Musical by The Lisps is an avant-americana indie-rock musical that follows Julian Munro, a Civil War soldier trying to invent a steam-powered mechanical brain that will solve all of humanities problems. Guided by his brilliant mentor, the famous metaphysician Ada Lovelace, Julian weaves an epic fantasy that folds a utopian, high-tech future back into the dark reality of war.

Crazy, right? Get you glimpse of Futurity at Joe's Pub on Friday by buying your tickets here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dissecting the Cow

Best part of Sondheim in conversation with Anna Quindlen at Barnes and Noble last night? When they both spoke of seeing a Mondrian retrospective and the effect it had on their outlook on art and life. Both of them spoke so eloquently and passionately about their realization that, in the process of watching Mondrian go from visually dissecting a cow to his Broadway Boogie Woogie, they were witnessing an artist coming into his own voice. For Sondheim, a similar transition came to him when he heard the score for "Company." More than anything, though, it also highlighted the importance of learning a strong technical foundation in order to break out and come into one's own.

An illuminating moment for them made for an illuminating moment for everyone in the room.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All I Want For Christmas

Holiday shopping is always a stressful exercise, but during a time when it's the thought that counts, why not use this as an opportunity to share new music and writers with your friends and family?

Like last year, the go-to gift for any lyricist/composer/librettist in your life was Sondheim's first book, and this year its companion, Look, I Made a Hat, is hitting the shelves again just in time for the holidays. You can even get the "Hat Box" with both books -- if your musical theatre enthusiast hasn't already beaten you to the punch.

When it comes to recordings, there are a few go-tos that are topping my personal wish list and are becoming staples on my gift list for others. For stocking stuffers, look no further than Shaina Taub's EP, What Otters Do, which will be sure to charm any folksy, jazzy fans for only $3.99 a pop. Today also marks the official release of The Burnt Part Boys cast recording, a gorgeous little show that I loved at Playwrights Horizon last year (What are the chances for a recording of The Shaggs come next year? Now that would be a Chrismakkuh miracle). And if you or anyone you know doesn't have a copy of Kooman & Dimond's Out of Our Heads or Georgia Stitt's My Lifelong Love, you should get on that ASAP.

For a more creative gift that also supports new artists, try taking part in some crowd funding projects. Right now, Ryan Scott Oliver and Matthew Murphy are raising money through Kickstarter for a recording and performance of their show 35MM, the project that gave birth to favorite songs like "Hemming and Hawing," "The Ballad of Sara Berry," and, yes, "Crazytown." Depending on your donation level, you can score swag like the finished cast recording, signed posters, and even a limited edition photo print. You can also support the Steampunk musical, Futurity, by band The Lisps as they work to produce a cast recording of their show. Use the Kickstarter campaign to pre-order the album for loved ones, and follow it up with tickets to their Joe's Pub concert on December 16th.

If you would rather treat your friends to some quality time, drinking in the holiday spirit, there are many winter concerts on the horizon. My New York Christmas tradition involves Joe Iconis and family debauchery at Ars Nova for the Joe Iconis Christmas Spectacular. Strapped for cash? Check out free concerts from a ton of new musical theatre writers as a part of the Broadway's Future at Lincoln Center and at the NYTB D-Lounge on December 11 and 12.

As the year winds down, it's nice to remember what the holidays are all about: family, friendship, love, and good will. How can music not make its way into that equation?