Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Power of Now. Here. This.

I wish I had the opportunity to see this show sooner so that perhaps there would be more opportunities for people to storm The Vineyard to see the [Title of Show] crew's latest work. Still, even with its final performance only a few days away on April 28th, I have to rave about this show. And apologies for the short notice aside, I urge you to rearrange your plans and cancel everything on your calendar so you can go see this.

I'd been a fan of Hunter Bell, Susan Blackwell, Jeff Bowen, and Heidi Blickenstaff ever since hearing the recording of [Title of Show] and watching the [title of show] Show episodes religiously on Youtube ("Get outta here, Cheyenne Jackson!"). Unfortunately, I never got to see [tos] in person, but it only cemented my determination to attend a performance of Now. Here. This.

The truth of the matter is that I always am a little wary of talking about people who have already made it to Broadway on this blog, since the focus is on more up-and-coming writers. But experiencing the intimacy of all four performers in the space of The Vineyard, I found myself in awe of the talented, professional people taking such risks and reaching out to audiences in a way that is so genuine and magnetically charged with human connection.

So what is Now. Here. This. about? On one hand, it's simply about a day at the museum the [tos] crew experiences together, researching the development of the universe to give them inspiration for their new piece about what it means to live in the moment. Of course, that is not all the story is about, as exhibitions bring out stories from each cast members' past, explaining who they are and how they came to be int his moment, on the stage before you. Eventually, the stories converge, making you, the audience, realize the magic of what you are witnessing. And in this way, the piece is really a testament to the magic of theatre.

In [tos] fashion, there is an abundance of smart humor, much of which stems from the lovable performers whose love for one another is palpable. There are set pieces with just enough to conjure a museum-type atmosphere, but the true moments of unbridled joy and ecstatic grief come from musical moments where the background rolls away and the talented actors are more than enough to fill the stage.

Perhaps the end wraps things up a little neatly-- but it's hard not to appreciate the journey and to feel grateful. Grateful to be alive. Grateful for great people and great art. Grateful to be a part of something.

Bonus video: If you want to see a great example of the performers at their most poignant and hilarious, catch this video from an Easter Bonnet competition:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Reflections On Your Own Refection

You know that scene in Garden State where Zach Braff and Natalie Portman scream into the abyss? For some reason, this song really reminds me of that:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Glitches in Technology

Find yourself trolling the internet lately, trying to make a connection? In this day and age, it's hard not to acknowledge the fact that technology is one of main modes of communication, and musicals are reflecting this in song. Here are a few tunes about glitches in technology (and human relationships), courtesy of some new musical writers.

Cait Doyle singing Drew Gaspirini's "The Text Message Song" as a part of her Hot Mess in Manhattan:

The always great "Breaking Up" by Peter Mills, performed at New Voices with Krystle Armstrong & Troy Wageman:

From last month's NY Theatre Barn at the D-Lounge, "My Simple Request" sung by Blake Daniel and written by Joey Contreras:

Monday, April 2, 2012

My Next Story: An Interview with Nick Blaemire

About two and a half years ago when I started this blog, the first post I ever wrote talked about the work of Nick Blaemire. I had recently seen his Glory Days CD release concert at Joe's Pub and being inspired by seeing the work from his Broadway writing debut (along with the many other projects I had seen him perform in prior) was what pushed me over the line to finally start writing about my passion for new musical theatre artists. I know this past month has featured a lot of posts about him, but I am thrilled to be able to bookend the coverage of so many of his gigs as of late with an interview with the man himself (big thanks to Jennifer Ashley Tepper for setting this up!). As mentioned before, Nick is currently in the fantastic ensemble of Broadway's Godspell and has also recently released an EP with The Hustle. So read on to hear about how Godspell is influencing his writing process, what new musicals he's writing now, and what things make him excited enough to "poop his pants" (his words, not mine).

(Interview with Nick for MTI Showspace)

Me: One of this production of Godspell’s greatest assets is its young and incredibly talented cast. What do you think it is about this show that makes it relevant and important for younger audiences (and actors)?

Nick Blaemire: The opportunity to actually be yourself onstage is an incredibly rare and exciting one - as actors we're usually asked to fit someone else's mold to some degree, unless you're creating the character - but even then you're trying to be someone else, where as in Godspell, as long as we're telling the story, we can do it any way we want. So there's a huge freedom there that allows for some really exciting improvisational moments, and a sense that anything can happen. Hopefully that translates to the young people who come to see it, in that their energy in the audiences influences ours, and it becomes this reciprocal, very alive experience where everybody's contributing to what's being created.

Me: Tackling themes of religion, faith, and ultimately just the mention of God is usually shied away from onstage and in mainstream media. How do you feel Godspell has been able to survive and breakthrough this barrier? And how do you as an actor approach this heavy subject?

Nick: I’m not a particularly religious guy, so for me, the way I found to connect to the material was to honor the truth of the lessons jesus teaches. It doesn’t matter how you approach them, whether it's through the venue of organized religion or just as social doctrines, because the content is always just as valid. I do think that what Godspell does successfully is focus on how we as human beings treat other human beings, rather than about "rules" or "a way of life," which can be alienating if it's not a methodology you connect with. But we're all human, so the way we treat each other is always going to be a subject worth talking about.

Me: Has the improvisational nature of Godspell influenced your own writing in any way?

Nick: Absolutely - especially in pop music. That feeling that anything could happen is how a song should feel, especially in live performance, but even in recording - because surprises are what drive us. We continue to live and move forward because we dont know what's going to happen next, and we want to control it as best we can, but ultimately, every new moment is going to be a surprise, and from Godspell I've learned the value in creating new things with that mindset, of constantly jumping off a cliff and trying to just ride the proverbial wave that music and stories provide.

(Nick singing "My Three Best Friends" from Glory Days)

Me: What is it like to be back at Circle in the Square post-Glory Days?

Nick: It's surreal. I cant believe they've allowed me back in the building. It's especially cool because all the tech and maintenance people are still the same, and it's like getting to hang out with old friends - there are even some little remnants of our production around the building that never got taken down, so that's a trip. And artistically, its beyond humbling. It was such an honor to be there with Glory Days, and I’m reminded every day of the magic of that space every time I come to the theatre for Godspell.