Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Have You Met Darryl?

Michael Mitnick is a fantastic playwright whose Spacebar: A Broadway Play By Kyle Sugarman is the kind of fanciful, quirky, and ultimately heartbreaking kind of work that I aspire to. With lots of imagination and theatrical flair, Spacebar exemplifies the humor and creativity of much of his other works like Sex Lives of Our Parents, which was part of Second Stage's season last year.

Michael is also a musical theatre writer, having worked on tween musical Pencils Down with Simon Rich and Fly By Night with Kim Rosenstock and Will Connelly, which premiered at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto. Still, one of my favorite numbers from Michael Mitnick will remain this classic gem, about a boy named Darryl:

(Felicia Ricci singing "Darryl is a Boy (and He Lives in My Closet)"
at A Little New Music in 2009)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Blog Updates and a Tuesday Night Video

If you visit the blog somewhat regularly, you may notice that some things have been shifting around lately. I'm trying to get the blog to a stage where it's a little cleaner and a little easier to access all the good stuff, so I wanted to thank you for bearing with me. As you'll see at the top of the page, I now have a tab specifically for my show calendar. It's a Google calendar that I often update for myself with upcoming shows (I rarely get to see them all, but it's always nice to keep track), and I wanted to find an easy way to share it with all of you, should you need a recommendation for where there are new musical events around the city. If you are a writer with an event coming up, feel free to email me at emergingmt@gmail.com, and I'll try to get your event up there -- just keep in mind that it has to be musical theatre related and preferably something related to new writers.

With that announcement, I wanted to leave you with a video from my playlist of all-time favorite songs from musical theatre songwriters, Katie Thompson's "It Doesn't Hurt." I've been in a pretty introspective mood with the new year, so this is especially rich in feeling. Plus, when is it ever not a joy to hear Katie Thompson tell your story as she tears it up at the piano?

Friday, January 20, 2012


Sure, 2012 is the year of The Hobbit (and how cute is Martin Freeman in Sherlock right now, am I right??), but lately I've been loving some of the songs from Fellowship! The Musical Parody of 'The Fellowship of the Ring' (book and lyrics by Kelly Holden-Bashar and Joel McCrary, music and lyrics by Allen Simpson). Lovingly and hilariously parodying J.R.R. Tolkien's classic tale of hobbits, elves, and dwarves (oh my!), I've heard great things about this musical since a friend saw it at NYMF in 2010, and there was a recent private reading in November in LA. Watch the trailer below, and watch a performance of "I Always Thought" to hear the song that's been stuck in my head as of late (it's like a "For Good"... but a lot more specific):

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Playing The Hamilton Mixtape

A couple of months ago, I got an email from Lincoln Center announcing that the first concert in its 2012 American Songbook series was going to be with Lin Manuel Miranda. Immediately, I emailed the link to my good friend (and occasional collaborator) Gabriella, talking about how much I was dying to go.

She wrote back, "Wellllll maybe you should wait until christmas and see if maybe someone was maybe thinking you would want to see it."

And thus I learned two things: first, I would be getting to see Lin Manuel Miranda perform selections from his Alexander Hamilton mixtape/song cycle project, and second, you know when someone is a good friend when s/he can predict your dearest theatre loves.

After that conversation, I was counting down the days, and I'm happy to report that tonight's concert was everything I'd hoped it would be and more.

The night started off strong. How cool is it that the first song to kick off the concert and the Lincoln Center Songbook series was "Empire State of Mind (Remix)" with a little Sondheim, Kander, and Joel mixed in? And the hip hop/rap covers didn't end there. With the help of amazing performers (Utkarsh Ambudkar, James Monroe Inglehart, Christopher Jackson, Moeisha Mcgill, Mandy Gonzalez, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Jon Rua, and Shockwave), Lin paid tribute to songs and lyricists that inspired him, from The Notorious B.I.G. to Big Punisher to Eminem. I especially loved when Lin and Chris Jackson sang Talib Kweli's "Get By," a song that exemplifies the energy and buoyancy present in much of Lin's work and in the performances throughout the night.

Since seeing his performance of "Alexander Hamilton" at the White House on Youtube, I've been incredibly excited to hear more from this project, and the 12 songs that were presented did not disappoint. Conflicting ideologies between Thomas Jefferson and Hamilton revealed themselves through rap battles, Washington poetically admitted the challenges ahead in "Right Hand Man," hope for a new generation was movingly expressed by Hamilton and Aaron Burr in folksy "Dear Theodosia," and King George III took on a pop sound as he warned a rebellious new America through what was, let's just say, the genius choice in casting Gavin Creel.

More than anything, the thing I love about Lin's work is that he really makes you sit up and take notice of the lyrics and intricacies of his work while making songwriting look easy. I was so struck by some of the little turns of phrases, little moments that would come back to haunt later parts of the song. The man really knows how to write songs that find a dramatic moment and musicalize it in a way that seems completely organic. Because he writes characters' voices that fit so well into his tunes, it's also incredibly moving when many motifs, both musically and thematically, reappear, bringing new context as characters grow and experience great love, tragedy, and failure.

What a gift to have a voice in the theatre so reassured of where it comes from and so exuberant about combining disparate interests and passions. I was moved tonight, I was thrilled, and, hey, I even learned some history. But more than anything, I came home and was inspired to create. Because there is nothing more inspiring than seeing the extent to which talent can reach out into a community, creating something new, bringing people together, and jamming out to some Jay-Z on the side.

Edit: Lincoln Center posted a video of clips from the concert, which can be viewed here.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Piece of Jeremy Schonfeld

(Jeremy Schonfeld and Lauren Kennedy singing
"I Was Meant For You" from 37 Notebooks)

The first musical theatre writer I thought I would write about in the new year is actually a writer I've been meaning to talk about for a while now. Jeremy Schonfeld has been on the musical theatre scene for a while, performing his concept album, Drift, which had a production at NYMF, as well as writing songs for and acting in the musical film Clear Blue Tuesday. He's also composed music for the ATrainPlays, which I love, and he wrote the music for a CD titled 37 Notebooks, which features songs performed by Broadway stars like Shoshana Bean and Tracie Thoms.

Last November, I was contacted about reviewing Jeremy's latest CD, Iron & Coal, and it's taken me a lot longer than I expected to spend the time I wanted to on it. But in light of the new year, I finally found a quiet moment to really listen to this rock/orchestral album and was surprised to find resonant themes in the face of a new beginning. The lyrics stood out most to me-- cries for redemption, introspective looks into identity, ruminations on mortality and spirituality. It was intensely personal and intimate while still being incredibly melodic and cohesively contained. There's depth to every song, and it's hard not to listen to the album and not recognize the spiritual journey the characters embark on as they search inside themselves to find meaning.

And that was what I thought before I even heard the personal story behind the album, which was inspired by Jeremy's family and growing up in the shadow of the Holocaust:

You can stream the entire album at Jeremy's website here. I highly recommend taking the time to really enjoy the music and lyrics of this extraordinary story and listen to the voices of human beings finding themselves under the weight of human tragedy and experience.