Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Help Michael R. Jackson air some Dirty Laundry and make Good Clean Music

The Tony Awards are rapidly approaching, and while I am curious to see who takes home statues this year and am looking forward to some performances, I do have to admit that the Tonys have not been a huge source of excitement for me. Because while there are many great entries in there, I’ve been finding the more theatre I’ve been making an effort to see outside of Broadway, the more I realize that real invention, risks, and basically things that are defining the future of theatre are not represented on The Great White Way. This is not said to take anything away from this last season, but when half the nominees for best score are (yet again) plays, something seems a bit amiss.

This is all to say that one of the artists that I have been repeatedly thrilled by in the past couple of years has been Michael R. Jackson, who I’ve mentioned on this blog at least a couple of times. His characters are always complicated and unafraid of confronting uncomfortable truths, whether the audience likes it or not, in song. The narratives of his tunes are specific and sometimes gut-wrenching, and listening to his music, it’s not hard to see that he has a unique voice in the theatre landscape, particularly in musical theatre.

It is with this adoration that I am very excited about the possibility that he might be able to record an album, and this is the intention of his Kickstarter campaign: to record a double LP album. Even if it’s just a few dollars, please support this great project; there are only a few days left in the campaign, and there’s still a way to go. More information and links to donate are here. In the meantime, if you’re still on the fence, here’s a couple of videos from Michael R. Jackson’s recent Lincoln Center concert:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Broadway Stages and Other Musicals: An Interview with Antonius and Vijay Nazareth of AVbyte

Amidst interactive online musicals and full blown musical webseries, another writing duo is trying to break into the Youtube scene with musical theatre videos. Students and brothers Antonius and Vijay Nazareth are the creators of AVbyte, a Youtube channel that posts weekly videos of original songs ranging topics from dating to social media to comic book characters. Combining slick visuals with catchy tunes, each short offers a fun look at life, love, and pop culture. Antonius and Vijay were nice enough to answer some questions and share their plans for the future as they continue to expand AVbyte's offerings.

Me: Give us a little background about yourselves. How did you get into music, and who are some of your influences? How did you decide to collaborate together?

Antonius and Vijay Nazareth: We are actually brothers. Our parents are both classical musicians, our mother is a trained singer, and our father is a symphonic and operatic conductor. Both of us were born in Verona, Italy, but due to our father's profession, we moved all over Europe; Rome, Nice, Monte Carlo, Vienna, Amsterdam and Hamburg. Three years ago, we finally made the big move to New York to study. Here, Vijay studies film at City College New York, and I studied music composition at New York University.

Me: Where did the idea of AVbyte come from?

Antonius and Vijay: The idea for AVbyte came a long time ago. Both of us were raised watching the old Hollywood musicals 24/7... literally. If we weren't watching Singing in the Rain, we were singing along to An American in Paris, or Anchors Aweigh. Those musicals, the tap dancing, and the lighthearted, funny, charming musical style of those films are essentially engrained in our DNA. Then we were both fascinated by YouTube, and the possibilities it presented. Vijay had actually started his own YouTube channel, producing action/comedy shorts. It wasn't long before we put two and two together and came up with AVbyte. At first, we didn't think it was going to be possible for me to write a song a week, but somehow it has been working so far!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pirate Puppet Musicals, Wundelsteilpen, and Rock Bands-- Oh My!

Four years ago, when we were just interns together and barely knew one another, my friend Gabriella kept raving about a pirate puppet musical, telling me we had to see it together. Pirates! Puppets! Songs! She couldn’t stop telling me about how we had to see this show. But, unfortunately, by the time I got around to buying my ticket, the show was already sold out.

Apparently, I missed out. The show was Nick Jones’s Jollyship the Whiz-Bang, a fantastical show with music and puppets on the high seas. Evidence in the video below:

Therefore, when I heard about Nick Jones’s latest show, The Wundelsteipen (and Other Difficult Roles for Young People), as a part of The Flea’s new play festival, I knew that we had to go. And while not a musical per se (though there are 2 particularly well-timed songs), this manic, hilariously irreverent night on shorts is well worth the price of admission. Promising mystical creatures (sometimes incredibly profane--wait until you find out what a Wundelsteipen is), strange ruminations on youth, and even a couple of puppets, these shorts explore themes of adolescence, mythology, and sexuality in a fast-paced series of skits. The Bats, The Flea’s resident group of young actors, was especially well-used here, blending modern sensibilities with epic characters and loftier philosophic ideas. To give a brief idea, the trailer for the show is below:

Another missed opportunity on my part in the last week was having to miss The Peripherals, a new musical performance piece playing downtown at Dixon Place. Due to an unexpected sickness, I was unable to attend the performance that I had tickets to, but I do have to say that it sounds pretty awesome. Conceived by Obie Award-winning Talking Band, the show is described as a "play in the form of a rock concert" and tells the stories of characters on the periphery. Also, a guest band plays an unannounced set in the lobby before each performance, so you get 2 shows in one. If anyone makes it out to see any of the shows left in their run (The Peripherals plays until 5/19), please leave a comment or let me know how it was! Definitely curious about this one.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Lullabies of Broadway: Over the Moon

When I think of lullabies, I think of the tin song in a music box or the tune of a mobile, rotating in a crib. The kinds of bedtime songs I think of are nursery rhymes, kiddy songs to lull an infant into a state of submission. It would seem that as adults we have less of a need for lullabies-- but then I think to the fact that I still often need a song to carry me off to sleep, and I realize that they might be more relevant than I had originally thought.

To raise money for breast cancer research and support, Kate Dawson and Jodi Glucksman have co-produced the new album Over the Moon, a collection of 26 lullabies written by premiere theatre composers and recorded for the first time. Performed by Broadway stars, this collection boasts songs by the likes of Stephen Sondheim, Maury Yeston, Tom Kitt, Adam Gwon, Timothy Huang, and Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich. The amount of talent on this CD is unreal, and all the money goes to a good cause.

Last night was a concert celebrating the project and featuring 13 of the 26 songs sung live by some incredibly talented artists, including Marc Kudisch, Nikki M. James, and Marva Hicks. With every song performance was a projection of an illustration that can also be found in the picture and ebook versions of the album, which are all available for purchase from the project's website. For a sampling of some of the music performed last night, here are a couple of behind-the-scenes clips:

What I think I love most about this project in particular is how it brought the art of the lullaby back into the public consciousness. Thought they are deceptively simple, they serve a very important purpose-- what is it that we most want to hear before we go to sleep? What kind of comfort can we offer? Much like the mission of this project, lullabies seek to reassure us of the things we have and the life we've lived-- it's a reflection on love and time and a gentle wish into the future.