Friday, August 31, 2012

Go See the Mess

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing Cait Doyle's Hot Mess in Manhattan, and I do have to say that if you're a fan of new musical theatre, you should totally go out and support this show. Inspired by her cabaret show, Hot Mess the musical is a story written around a slew of original songs by up-and-coming musical composers collected for Hot Mess's cabaret shows. There's a lot of good stuff here: really affecting music by the likes of Nick Blaemire, Kerrigan and Lowdermilk, Michael Mahler, and Ryan Scott Oliver, an infectious cast with Cait Doyle at the helm, and a wonderfully personal undertone to the show that helps the themes of New York City disillusionment and survival hit home. Admittedly, the plot is a little thin, but it's a wonderful showcase to some brilliant music and performances. Also, the show is still in development, so go out and show your support as they continue to work it.

My fellow Crazytown-er Shoshana posted a cool interview with Cait today. You can also still get your tickets for the remaining performances here, and use the code newMTfan for $15 tickets.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cutting Edge Composers III for your viewing pleasure

A little over a month ago, I reported back from Cutting Edge Composers III, which had a couple performances as a part of NYMF. There were a ton of great songs, and most of them are up on Cutting Edge Composers' Youtube channel. Still, for some highlights, I thought I would post some of the performances I had mentioned in my earlier write-up:

Blake Daniel singing Will Reynold's "I Knew a Boy"

Matt Bailey, AJ Shively, and Joe Cassidy singing
Drew Gasparini's "The Whistler"

Emma Hunton singing Anna Dagmar's "We Were Children"

Emma Hunton singing Zack Zadek's "Just Me"


Lilli Cooper singing Zoe Sarnak's "Easy"

Check out all the great performances and songs at Cutting Edge Composers' Youtube channel here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hot Mess Takes Manhattan

I've expressed my adoration of Cait Doyle and her cabaret show, Hot Mess in Manhattan, a few times on this blog, and I'm thrilled to say that Hot Mess will be taking to the Manhattan stage again in the near future, only this time as a full-length musical! Chock full of songs by up-and-coming composers (including the likes of Ryan Scott Oliver, Adam Gwon, Nick Blaemire, Salzman and Cunningham, Kerrigan & Lowdermilk), this semi-autobiographical tale is sure to debunk some Sex and the City myths with a realistic, entertaining portrayal of life in the big city. Cait is hilarious, and armed with some great original songs, this is sure to be a great show.

Performances start on August 30th, and the show will run until September 8th. You can purchase tickets here, BUT WAIT! Use the code newMTfan at checkout, and you can get tickets for $15 each! Save a little money, see a great show, and come back here and share your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Queen of the Mist (and chance to win a copy of the cast recording!)

I was pretty bummed to have missed The Transport Group's production of Queen of the Mist last winter, but I am excited that the performances will live on with the cast recording that was recently released by Sh-K-Boom. The gang over there was nice enough to provide me with a copy, and I am happy to report that Queen of the Mist is very much still alive in its recorded form, maintaining an exciting story that barrels (sorry... had to do it) on through, with much of the momentum attributed to a stunning performance by Mary Testa.

Telling the story of Annie Edson Taylor who went over Niagara Falls in a barrel and lived to tell the tale, Queen of the Mist is a tale of ambition and its price. As to be expected from Michael John LaChiusa, the music is evocative and the songs serve as wonderful vehicles for storytelling. Even without having seen the production, the characters still shone through with their individual voices, with Mary Testa's being the most nuanced and star-turning. How a recording manages to captures how Mary Testa infuses Annie with humor and heart while also showcasing her callous determination really speaks to the work that was put into developing this show. The song "There Is Greatness In Me" is one of the ultimate "I Want" songs, if I've ever heard one.

In addition to letting me listen in on the cast album myself, the good people over at Sh-K-Boom gave me a couple of cast recordings to give away on this blog! So, I thought it would be neat to take this contest over to Twitter. Here's all you gotta do to enter for your chance to win a cast recording:
  • Either look at my Twitter page and RT my tweet with the link to this blog post, or just tweet the following: "Win a copy of the Queen of the Mist cast album from @emergingmt. Details here:"
  • You have until 11:59 pm on Friday (8/17) to get in your entry, and random winners will be chosen and notified on Saturday (8/18).
  • Also, if you want any other updates on the blog or any future contests, feel free to follow me.
Good luck! Hope to see you in the Twittersphere soon.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fresh Iconis

Figure since I've been listening to them obsessively for the past week that I would share the two new songs Joe presented at his last show with the family at 54th Below:

Krysta Rodriguez singing "Out of Sight/Out of Mind (The Buddy Song)"

Annie Golden singing "Spin Those Records"

Happy listening!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Are you Spandex Material?

Earlier this year, I received an invitation for a reading of a new musical called Spandex by Daniel F. Levin and Annie Grunow. Telling the story of eclectic characters and the competitive world of aerobics in the 80s, Spandex is a quirky and energetic piece about achieving greatness. Here to talk about the journey in getting Spandex off the ground, what the creative team took from the most recent reading, and where the show is going from here, Daniel F. Levin contributed the following hilarious and candid piece in his own words as a part of our guest post series.

"No one would undertake the intricate, painful, gargantuan, hysterical task of putting on a musical play unless he had more enthusiasm than most people have about anything." --Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times Drama Critic, 1924-1960

I felt like I had paid my dues. I wrote a Holocaust musical. I also had written Hee-Haw: It’s a Wonderful Li_e, where Sam Wainwright challenges the heroism of George Bailey. At the show’s end (spoiler alert), when Sam’s guardian angel has shown him his life if he had never been born, Sam finally follows through on one thing better than George Bailey: he kills himself.

This is why, when Annie came to me and showed me the youtube clip of the 1987 Crystal Light National Aerobic Competition, hosted by Alan Thicke, I said, “Yes, Annie, that would be a great musical!” No suicides, genocide, or other “ides.” No battle to the death at the end of the show. Lots of headbands, leg warmers, waxed bodies, gelled hair and white teeth, plus the star of TV’s growing pains, Alan Thicke. Annie and I watched the clip over and over. The Miami Vice d├ęcor, the dazzling aerobics moves, culminating in the great circle wheel of push-ups--all of the elements just seemed to be in place.

And so Spandex the Musical was born. Annie is an archivist whose last show, according to her bio, was “All My Laundry…co-written and produced with the Sullivan and Francis children and performed in the Francis’ basement on New Years’ Eve 1991.” I’m a musical theater writer whose work, as noted, has trended more towards Les Miz-style shows, only with more people dying, and who has never done aerobics. We dove in.

Like the 1980’s conference call technology we were exploring, we used the power of the Google Docs to share the script. We laughed over terrible jokes. We called the show “a Palimpsest in Two Acts.” We wrote an original opening number on the train featuring the line, “Spandex Spandex, you can wash it on medium warm/ Spandex Spandex, it can fit any physical form,” and highlighting the fact that Spandex is an anagram for “Expands.” Research! Before we had written three scenes, we started imagining an all African-American sequel to the show called Black Spandex.  This is how exuberant you get at the beginning of a new show.

We pushed through a sophomore slump, continuing our regular meetings at the Muff (Connecticut Muffin), the Sauce (now-defunct Boerum-Hill coffee shop Flying Saucer) and the Bucks. We reassured each other that our Montague-street Starbucks would one day have a plaque for us. That Starbucks later shuttered and moved down the street.

By the Spring of 2011, it was time for our first reading. We invited loyal friends to our apartment. Annie brought cheap wine and my girlfriend, Casey, and I ordered pizza. I cast my friend Mike E. as Shmitty, the closeted, tough-as-nails aerobicizer who spent time in the clink. Annie and I thought the character was hilarious and couldn’t wait to hear him brought to life. It turns out that despite being very prominent in the stage directions, Shmitty only had four lines. Mike E. felt slighted. But other parts worked. My friend Dan G. used a horrendous accent to play Israeli fitness guru, Dov Yisrael, but despite this he made the character come to life--funny and full of heart. By the second reading, that Fall, the character of Trip Allen, evil pusher of Instathin diet pills, elicited the proper boos and hisses.

In addition to a central love story between Lorraine, (an aerobics instructor) and Dov, we had a secondary love story between Bob and Linda. All the great shows have a secondary love story! Linda is a plump housewife who, now that the kids are a little older, starts aerobicizing. Her husband is a Reagan administration employee who can’t handle her newfound independence. It all seemed so harmless. But something went wrong. Our reading critiquers couldn’t tell who they were supposed to focus on: Lorraine and Dov or Bob and Linda. Our subplot had metathesized and was now eating up the main plot! Annie and I went back to the Muff and recalibrated. I fought for some scenes--I can get precious; Annie wanted to use a chainsaw--she’s ruthless!.