Thursday, February 21, 2013

Uncharted Musical Territory

Ars Nova has continually been the place to be when you're looking for new, exciting theatrical works of genius. Their Uncharted series, concerts presenting the work of up-and-coming composers, was often a go-to source for discovering new writers. This year, Uncharted comes in the form of a development incubator, a writers group based on their playwriting meet-up, PlayGroup. With artistic director Jason Eagan's promise of beer and pizza and regular meetings, the four selected writing teams to participate in the inaugural writers group will develop new works to be presented and showcased over the course of the next year.

If you read the blog, many of these names will sound familiar. Still, here are the writers and some songs they performed at the kick-off concert:

Shaina Taub -- Shaina Taub is known for her smoky vocals, folksy melodies, and whimsical lyrics. Her Greek song cycle The Daughters features some banging tunes for female powerhouses, and her EP, What Otters Do, is a common selection on my iPod.

Charles Vincent Burwell and James D. Sasser -- I was probably least familiar with Sasser and Burwell going into this concert, but the songs they played from their modern day Cuban musical, Cubamor, quickly made an impression. With some diverse styles of music and bilingual lyrics, I'm most curious to hear what comes from this team next.

Anna K. Jacobs and Michael R. Jackson -- She wrote the critically acclaimed Warhol musical POP!; he's known for his subversive subject matter and deliciously complex songs. Together, they're writing an adaptation of independent horror film Teeth, which should prove interesting.

Gordon Leary and Julia Meinwald -- This duo never fails to produce rich songs for complicated characters, and their musical Pregnancy Pact never fails to showcase this. Excitingly, there seem to be a few new projects on the horizon for them, so here's hoping for more new work soon.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bunnicula on the loose

Yes, I was well-aware that when I decided to see Bunnicula at the DR2 Kids Theatre for a 1:00 matinee that my friend and I would be one of the older audience members without a tiny tot in tow. Still, with a book by Charles Busch (and music by Sam Davis, lyrics by Mark Waldrop), I couldn't resist checking out a musical version of the most popular book at my elementary school growing up.

Bunnicula is a strange creature-- and not just because the title character sucks the nutrients out of vegetables. The books are interesting because they set up a horror premise, even though the story's big, bad villain is not really bad at all, just eccentric in his eating habits. Therefore, this adaptation's emphasis is put squarely on the other two household pets, Harold the dog and Chester the cat, as a lot of palling around leads to some jealousy and a rather unexpected confidence makeover-- the latter resulting in Harold the dog parading around in "salad drag." I heard a kid repeat this phrase in the lobby to his mom on my way out of the theater and figured that even if this is all Charles Busch accomplishes with this show, it's still a pretty big win in my book.

It's strange seeing a play specifically for kids as an adult. As much as I appreciated modern references thrown in and a lot of timed humor that was pretty sophisticated, this was a show squarely aimed for the child-set. And it actually took me back to when I would see a lot of community theatre on field trips in Hawaii, an education that I think has really shaped my outlook on the world. I feel very lucky to be a part of an industry that continues to build that kind of programming for young minds, and Bunnicula is a fun example of that.

And, while there are no videos from Bunnicula on the interwebs at the moment, I thought I would leave you with a clip from another Charles Busch show (not for kids), The Divine Sister:

Friday, February 8, 2013

Weekend Viewing

Need a soundtrack for your weekend? Missing the charm of live performance? Want to see a group of attractive men singing some killer, evocative folk songs?

You don't even have to answer out loud. I'll just leave this video here of PigPen Theatre Co. doing what they do best in this recording of their full Joe's Pub concert, and you can do with it what you will (watch it!!). Also, if you want to see all of this live, check out their website for details of their upcoming Northeast tour.

Monday, February 4, 2013

On Being a New Yorker

While there were no projections of multiplying Beyonces or major reunions of Destiny's Child members, there were much more intimate fireworks over at Joe's Pub in the second installment of Once Upon a Time in NYC, an evening of brand new songs from musical theatre composers about New York City. The timing of this show uncannily comes around my fifth anniversary since moving to this city, and it was wonderful to get a musical perspective of New York from such a wide range of New Yorkers, whether they have since moved, have lived here their whole lives, or are just starting their journeys. Organized by Jennifer Ashley Tepper and Caleb Hoyer, this concert was clearly a labor of love, and it was such a lovely opportunity for writers to be able to celebrate and eulogize their experiences in song. We should all be so lucky to be able to distill something so special in such a perfect, compact way.

Below are some highlights, though all the songs are well worth a listen to and can be found here.

George Salazar with Michael Gioia, Will Roland, Yaniv Zarif singing Sam Salmond's "Walk Wrong":

Krysta Rodriguez singing Amanda Green's "A New York City Prayer":

Benjamin Howes singing Joseph Church's "Walking Shoes":

Jessica Phillips singing Amanda Yesnowitz and Doug Katsaros' "The Thing About Dylan":

Elanna White singing David Are's "All Over 28th Street":

And perhaps my favorite of the night (thought it's hard to choose): Jeff Blumenkrantz singing his own "Aunt Betty":