Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Spread the Love with the Story Pirates

Mr. Dela Cruz's class was probably the first class where I realized I liked writing. My favorite activity was writing in my journal, letting my imagination roam and also chronicling what I believed to be my very stressful fourth grade life. He wrote generous responses to the tales of my triumphs and plights, and I always felt that writing in that journal was a safe space. In fact, I still own it, and while many entries make me cringe, it always reminds me of the experiences that made me the writer I am today.

Fostering young talent, musical writers included, is essential to the future of the arts. It is for this reason that the Story Pirates, who I have mentioned on this blog before, are a group near and dear to my heart. Turning kids' stories into live stage plays and musicals (and shorts on their Youtube channel), Story Pirates not only encourage children to write, but they also show them how their words can come to life.

Story Pirates are currently doing a campaign called Spread the Love, where they are asking for donations to serve schools in the name of life-changing teachers. In exchange for the donation, they will give your teacher of choice a shout out through social media or a personal letter/show.

There will also be a benefit at the Peter Norton Symphony Space on June 7th at 8:00 pm. Any donation to their Causevox campaign over $25 will come with a code for a ticket to the big benefit, or you can just get tickets here.

Help out a wonderful organization while paying tribute to wonderful teachers. And, in case you needed a reminder of the amazing this that can come from a child's imagination, I leave you with this:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Seeing SPANDEX: My Body Is a Temple

Last year, writer Daniel F. Levin was kind enough to write a guest post for Emerging Musical Theatre about his new show, Spandex, a fun, energetic send-up to fitness and aerobics centering around the 1987 Crystal Light National Aerobic Competition, hosted by Alan Thicke. Since he was kind enough to share the behind-the-scenes journey the show had taken after a major industry reading, I'm happy to report that Spandex (with book and lyrics by Daniel, book also by Annie Grunow, and music by Julian Blackmore) is currently enjoying its first production Off-Broadway at the 777 Theater here in the city.

Telling the story of a housewife and an ex-gymnast who both find redemption in the uplifting exercise of aerobics, Spandex is both campy fun and a genuinely intriguing piece about community and personal growth/fitness. I had the pleasure of seeing the show on Sunday night, and what I found most fascinating about the show was realizing what a game changer aerobics was for women in America. While we now tend to dismiss aerobics as Richard Simmons-esque stuff, we forget how revolutionary the idea was that women could find an outlet to workout in the comfort of their own homes through tapes, or within a small social group at the gym. This definitely made the show more than just an opportunity to break out the moves-- it gave those moves purpose and said a lot about the female characters who are struggling to find strength within themselves.

I also have to note that the score is pretty awesome, and there are a few songs that I've had running in my head since seeing the show (big props to composer Julian Blackmore). 80s pop/rock tends to produce a lot of earworms, and this show is no exception. There are some wonderful ballads throughout, and I have to admit I got a lot of guilty pleasure out of a particularly lavish, testosterone-filled number complete with rifles that is referenced in the title of this post.

It's really exciting to see new writers hustling and bringing their work to the stage. If you're in the mood for a high-energy romantic comedy infused with aerobic dance (because... why not), Spandex is lots of fun. Congrats to Daniel and the team! (Get your tickets here)

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Banner Year: Three Cheers for Pasek and Paul

I remember I used to watch clips of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's song cycle, Edges, from my dorm room in Georgia my Freshman year of college, a turbulent time in my life when I found myself stuck in a college town but in desperate need of new life experiences and challenges. "Monticello" was a lifeline for me, and it's been a real joy over the years to see the show continue to change, get a professional production, and help Pasek and Paul carve out spaces for themselves in the theatre world.

This past year (even these past couple of months) have been especially exciting for Pasek and Paul, as their work has not only had some major productions in 2012, but is now getting recognized in awards season. Next week, the duo will be celebrating the release of the cast recording of Second Stage's production of Dogfight at Joe's Pub-- though the album is already available for digital download and is well worth the early grab. I, sadly (and brokely), missed the Second Stage production (which just recently won the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical), but man, is Sh-K-Boom preserving some good stuff with the recording of this album. All the performers are top notch-- with Lindsay Mendez's voice a clearly ringing standout throughout, and the songs are ebullient and smart. If this is the future of musical theatre, the kids are alright. I dare you to watch the preview video below with a sample of "First Date/Last Night" and not get hooked.

Pasek and Paul are also up for a Tony for their score for A Christmas Story, which is thrilling. Also, their nomination made this wonderful little Q&A possible.

And last, but hardly least, Pasek and Paul song have been tearing it up on the notorious Smash.

So big congrats go out to Pasek and Paul-- and if you haven't had a chance to check out their music, you gotta get on it! There's no excuse anymore. They're out there killing it, and I couldn't be happier for their success.

Friday, May 3, 2013

My April Youtube Playlist

Hey, everyone! Long time no blog-- I know, I know. This has been the longest I've gone without writing on here since starting Emerging Musical Theatre. Sorry for the delay; life has been a bit cray cray. It's been about a month since I've last posted on here, so to help catch up, I thought I would share some of my favorite musical theatre-related videos/songs I've had on repeat in April:

Heather Headley singing "Memory" in an Andrew Lloyd Weber TV special

Holy cow, guys! You think you've heard this song, but the clarity of this version definitely breathes new life into an old favorite.

Megan Hilty singing "They Just Keep Moving The Line" in Smash

Any Smash politics aside-- this is just a damn good song and Hilty is flawless.

Jeremy Jordan singing "Drift" by Kooman and Dimond

Speaking of Smash...

Farah Alvin singing "Misery Loves My Company" by Daniel Mate

Daniel was the recipient of the 2013 Kleban Award, which was announced in April. Congrats!!

The original London cast of Matilda singing "Miracle"

I revisited Matilda this month and while I still maintain that the pacing is a bit off, I also find so much of this show delightful, especially the musical numbers. This opening is particularly thrilling (and a dreamy doctor doesn't hurt).

PigPen Theatre Company's TED Talk with a performance of "Just Like the Sea"

Yes, this includes a whole TED Talk (and it's good-- I promise!). But towards the end, when they perform a song from The Old Man in the Old Moon, you are watching them recreate one of my favorite things I've ever seen in a theater space.

Sierra Boggess and Julian Ovenden singing "If I Loved You" from Carousel in a BBC Proms recording

Can't. Stop. Watching. May need an intervention.