Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Teenage Dreams: Behind the Music-al Style

I know I'm super late in doing a post about the last installment of the Behind the Music-al series at 92Y Tribeca last month, but I was waiting for videos to be posted so I could give you a taste of some of the awesomeness going on at that event. There was a lot of new material being shared, as well as new interpretations of old favorites, so I thought that being able to share specific performances was key.

The theme of the night was Teenage Dreams, and this was not your Katy Perry love song fantasy (though there's nothing wrong with that, especially singing along at the top of your lungs in the show-- I mean, what?). Instead, moderator Steve Fickinger posed interesting questions not only about the desires of young people, many of which were addressed directly in the songs presented, but also what it's like writing for young actors and how to frame depictions of young people.

Organizers Kyle Ewalt and Michael Walker tackled this material with songs from their show Separate: Battle Songs of Youth, a musical that follows different young men enlisting in war throughout time. It's very exciting to piece together songs from this show at each of the Behind the Music-al installments, and this evening's show didn't disappoint in showing a few other perspectives of boys on the brink of becoming men. Molly Hager also tore the roof off the place singing a song from a new project that will hopefully incorporate more of Michael's dance/electronica style.

Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk shared some favorites from their catalog, presenting songs from The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown and Tales from the Bad Years. Not only was Brian's beautiful music wonderfully showcased through three amazing singers, but Kait's skills as a book writer were shown through conversation about dealing with what is considered 'age appropriate' material and what it means to have faith in audiences to be as real to experience as possible. I also liked how Brian pinpointed something that I have always had the utmost respect for in their music: once the melody is worked out, songs can have fluidity in how they are arranged and orchestrated to continually have fresh interpretations. That was clear with songwriters like Joanna Burns and Jesse Ruben taking the music into their own creative hands (along with a mind-blowing performance by the always talented Kate Shindle).

Last but never least, Nick Blaemire played some of his own music (with one song pitch-perfectly portrayed by Molly Hager), displaying his great dexterity with language and ability to write very authentic voices of young people at life's crossroads. With a song from After Robert Hutchens, Nick showed the fitfulness and struggle in the face of new responsibility. This was only strengthened when Nick talked about his new musical, When the World Ends, which continues to put his characters in extraordinary circumstances that reveal uncomfortable, yet strangely optimistic truths.

Check out all the videos from the Teenage Dream event here, and be on the lookout for the next installment! It's a wonderful opportunity to hear some really talented people articulate the things that drive their work, as well as some really awesome new songs.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Blood On Your Hands: Newsadoozies at UCB Theatre

Coincidentally, while my roommate was at the Nederlander 2 nights ago watching some Newsies hawking their papes, I was at UCB watching a very different brand of kids trying to make it on the streets. Newsadoozies, a hilarious musical parody of cult classic Newsies written by Brian Glidewell and Marcy Jarreau (with additional music and lyrics by Kevin Carter), replaces heroic favorites like Jack Kelly, Crutchie, and David with twisted characters like corrupt Billy, innocent Cripply, drug-addicted Smacky, and Hammy ("I like ham!"). Throw in an evil cannibalistic sex cult and a budding romance, and it's not hard to realize how far south you are from the Disney favorite. Even with its absurd brand of humor, Newsadoozies strangely still touches on many of the themes of its inspiration-- kids realizing the freedom and vulnerability of being parentless, leaders struggling to rally the troops and act in the best interest of their communities, and rich minorities carelessly using the impoverished... for food (okay, so maybe that very last part isn't a common thread).

Best of all, the music is catchy. It plays on all the big-hearted musical conventions, from the passionate love duet to the big rallying number complete with every type of revolutionary you can think of. My friend and I agreed that something we appreciated most about the show was that the songs themselves were incredibly funny with lyrics that were perfectly timed for some hilarious moments. Also, the final moment was pitch-perfect in the final beat.

Newsadoozies will be playing UCB 4/6 at 7:30 pm (paired with "THE BACHELOR: Romance, Roses, and Romance") and 4/25 at 8:00 pm (paired with "Dog Fleet"). Keep your eye out on the UCB NY website for more info.

Friday, March 16, 2012

And the winner is...

Congratulations to 'Unknown,' who is the randomly selected winner of a voucher for 2 tickets to see Godspell on Broadway! Email me for confirmation and your prize! Thanks to everyone who participated with some great responses.

Here was our winner's favorite Blaemire tune:

"I'm gonna go for 'Open Road' from Glory Days. The progression from longing to tentative hope to exhilaration is so spot-on for youth.

Also, this lyric: I got into my car, what a lousy piece of shit, but I didn't care 'cause I just needed to try.

That line tends to get lost in the beginning, but man-o, it gets to me every time. I don't really know anyone who rode through their teens/early twenties with the smooth, fine-tuned engine of perfect grace. It's all been, or at least for me it's been: what a noisy, bumpy, inconsistent ride, but still, what a ride.

So yeah, Open Road."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Win Tickets to Godspell

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of being invited to attend a performance of Godspell with a talkback afterward with cast member and musical theatre writer Nick Blaemire. The show itself is a unique offering on Broadway right now with its fresh young cast and hilarious improvisation. Experiencing this energetic show in the round makes it feel even more interactive, and Stephen Schwartz's music sounds as beautiful as ever, especially with the likes of Lindsay Mendez and Hunter Parrish singing it.

As a part of my seeing Godspell, I have also been given a voucher for 2 tickets to any Tuesday, Thursday, or Sunday performance before 5/1/2012-- which I will be giving away to one lucky reader! Here's how to enter:

  • In keeping with the Nick Blaemire talkback, post your favorite Nick Blaemire song as a comment to this blog post by Thursday, 3/15. It can be a song by him or just performed by him. If there's a video, feel free to post the link. Or just tell us about a particularly good performance. Haven't heard any Blaemire music before? Look back at some past blog posts, or check out his brand new video with The Hustle for the single "Headturner" off his soon-to-be-released EP:

  • A winner will be randomly drawn and announced this Friday, 3/16, so check back to see if you won!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Michael Holland-ology

While I've been waiting for videos to be posted from the last installment of Behind the Music-al (which was fantastic-- although how can you go wrong with Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, Blaemire, and Ewalt and Walker?), I've been obsessed with these Michael Holland songs from the November show.

Eric Michael Krop doing verbal gymnastics with "Meteorology":

Britney Lee Hamilton singing the beautiful "Broken":

...And the captivating repeat performance of "Broken" a cappella, at the request of host Adam Guettel to see how the melody holds up without accompaniment:

Michael Holland himself singing and accompanying himself on "Somewhere Between Now and Then":

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Star Blazers: An Interview with Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda

I am so excited to share the following interview with songwriting team (and husband and wife real-life team) Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda after their memorable performances at the NYMF/ASCAP Showcase last fall. I first heard of Brendan and Valerie in connection to their band, GrooveLily, whose musical, Striking 12, is celebrated at theaters across the country every holiday season, but I am especially excited about some of their upcoming projects, including Valerie's solo show, Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, and their autobiographical musical, Wheelhouse. Just watch the epic video of "This Sucks" below for a taste of some things to come. So, without further ado, here are some of the insights they so graciously shared with me about their collaborations and new works:

Me: Your band, GrooveLily, made a name for itself in the musical theatre world, first with Striking 12 and now with various other projects. Was musical theatre always a natural progression for GrooveLily?

Brendan Milburn: I actually wrote musicals in high school and college, and came to NYC to attend the NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Program. But after my first year at NYU, I met Valerie and fell hard for her--and fell hard for the deceptive simplicity of what she was doing: getting friends together to sing and play her songs, writing a song in the afternoon, and then premiering it in front of a pass-the-hat audience at the Sidewalk Cafe in the East Village that night. It seemed so immediate, and so fun, and so carefree.

In addition, I was 22 when I met Val. I didn't know my ass from my elbow, professionally speaking. The idea that it might take FIVE YEARS to get a musical from conception to its first production seemed like an AEON to me. And that it would have to involve PRODUCERS and DIRECTOR and CHOREOGRAPHER and ALL THESE INVESTORS and man, it just seemed the opposite of the "hey, kids, let's put on a show" vibe that I had been a part of in high school and college. And Valerie's band seemed to be a way forward that was easier. So after I graduated from NYU, I turned my back on writing musicals for seven or eight years.

Let me state for the record: trying to make it in a rock band is *not* easier than trying to make it as a musical theatre composer.

Valerie Vigoda: I think that, in retrospect, it looks like a natural progression from rock band, to rock band that does concert-musicals, to writers of musical theatre where we're not performing at all. (As if we knew what we were doing! As if we had a plan! :)

But it has felt, at times, like we were groping around in the dark, veering wildly from one extreme to another, until we finally hit upon something that really resonated with a lot of people: Striking 12.

Really, in hindsight, we should have figured it out a little sooner - I mean, we would do showcases for record industry people, and over and over they would tell us, “I really like your music - it’s refreshing, original, inventive, hooky - but it’s a little too theatrical. Too Broadway. I can’t help you.” And we would try to change our sound, to fit into more of a radio-friendly, poppier sound format - but it never quite worked out that way. It wasn’t until we basically gave up and said, “okay, we’re too Broadway for the music industry - so let’s just BE what we naturally are and start doing some theatre already” - and then doors started to open, and it started to feel like we were finding our niche - figuring out where we belong in the world.

It’s unfortunate that wisdom doesn’t come more easily. Doh!