Featured Five, Vol. 5: In Praise of Women

This blog is a part of The Directory of Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers, found online at www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com

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This is Women’s History month, the thirty-one days we set aside to honor the work of women in various fields throughout the centuries.  Certainly, many women have made invaluable contributions to the arts in every possible genre. Edna St. Vincent Millay.  Maya Angelou. Artemesia Gentilesche. Georgia O’Keefe. Amy Beach. Jennifer Higdon.  Dorothy Fields.  Jeanine Tesori.  Powerful women from yesterday and today, who have changed our world through their medium.

This month we highlight the work of seven extraordinary women who are a part of The Directory.  They could each give Carl Magnus of A Little Night Music a serious run for his money (if they wanted to).  We are proud to have them and several other women be a part of our resource, and hope to grow their and other women writer’s visibility through The Directory.

So, enjoy these songs.  Better yet, purchase these songs.  Support these wonderful writers so they can continue to share their beautiful work with the world!

All The Right Reasons
Music: Linda Dowdell
Lyrics: Sara Wordsworth
 
Linda Dowdell
Linda Dowdell
Sara Wordsworth
Sara Wordsworth

Perfect for: Broadway Baritone

The Dowdell-Wordsworth collaboration began in 2005, when we met in the famed BMI Workshop.  For our 2nd year project, we were instructed to take a stab at a full-length musical adaptation. We (ambitiously!) chose Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel, FAHRENHEIT 451.  The story takes a look at a society of the future overcome by a dominating mass media and fascist government.  The job of firemen is not to put fires out, but to burn illegal books and arrest those who secretly keep them.  Guy Montag, the protagonist, is a book-burning fireman who is an active part of the “system” until he meets an inquisitive young rebel girl. An ensuing grim series of events drives him to a crisis of faith.  When he begins to steal books and hide them in his home, his wife Mildred turns him in and he is pursued by the law.  He flees and leaves his life behind to join a secret underground society of nomad “book people”, who memorize entire works of literature to preserve them for future generations. FAHRENHEIT 451 details the ongoing conflict between freedom of thought and censorship, and continues to be relevant today more than ever. In “All the Right Reasons,” the Act I finale, Guy contemplates breaking the law he has worked his entire life to uphold, while clutching a stolen novel.  An interesting side note, our original Guy, actor Mick Bleyer, has booked more than a few jobs using this song as an audition piece!

For more information, click here.

 
The Bean-Stalk
Music: Carmel Dean
Poem: Edna St. Vincent Millay
Carmel Dean
Carmel Dean
Edna St. Vincent Milay
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Perfect for: Belt Tenor

The Bean-Stalk is a poem written by Edna St. Vincent Millay in 1920. I was drawn to set it to music because I love the classic fable of Jack and the Beanstalk, and I similarly love and am inspired by Stephen Sondheim’s “Giants in the Sky” from INTO THE WOOODS. I felt that Millay’s poem gave me the chance to rewrite a familiar story song with a slightly different perspective – that of Jack speaking directly to the Giant and describing to him his journey up the bean-stalk. The music can be described as contemporary pop-classical, and affords the singer to use a lot of humor and charm whilst showing a wide range and skillful vocal ability.

For more information, click here.

 
Belle Reve
Music & Lyrics: Beth Falcone
Beth Falcone
Beth Falcone

Perfect for: Legit Mezzo

“Belle Reve” was one of my first assignments in the BMI Workshop! Everyone in the workshop, from it’s inception, has written a “Blanche” song from “Streetcar Named Desire.” Probably everyone on this site! I think it’s fascinating to hear different takes on the same couple of scenes they gave us to choose… So here’s my take! Remember Stanley’s famous yell: “Stellaaa!” ?  Right after that, Stella goes back to Stanley, and Blanche is left alone to ponder what has happened… This is a performance from the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop podcast, hosted by Jeff Blumenkrantz, sung by Victoria Clark. If you want to hear the whole interview, you can check it out here.

The sheet music is available in whatever key you need it in, and the lowest notes are optional! I hope you enjoy hearing and perhaps singing it!

For more information, click here.

 
My Head
Music: Mary Feinsinger
Lyrics: Alison Loeb
Mary Feinsinger
Mary Feinsinger
Alison Loeb
Alison Loeb

Perfect for: Low Voice (Mezzo or Baritone)

AL: I’m not invited to too many parties anymore. First of all, I can’t do anything important for anyone, and that doesn’t go over too well in New York. Second, people worry I might write a song about them, which is usually true. Then I met the brilliant, prolific, and beautiful Mary Feinsinger

MF: And thin. Don’t forget thin.

AL: …Beautiful and THIN at a dinner, and we hit it off. I don’t know why. But after the New Yorker rejected “My Head” (or maybe they never got it, who really knows?) Mary said she’d set it for me. She’s wonderful, that Mary Feinsinger.

MF: Alison Loeb gave me the lyrics to “My Head”, and the moment before she said “I think this would make a great song,” I thought “Hey, this would make a great song.” Danielle Erin Rhodes does a great job singing here.

AL: She’s magnificent. And thanks to David and Lorene for everything they’re doing.

MF and AL: “My Head” still makes us laugh. We think maybe you’ll laugh too.

For more information, click here.

A Story
from Sympathy Jones
Music & Lyrics: Masi Asare
Masi Asare
Masi Asare

Perfect for: High Belt Mix

Sympathy Jones tells the tale of a receptionist at an intelligence agency whose ambition to be a secret agent leads her to borrow a confidential file and pursue a notorious villain.  When, late in the show, Sympathy’s partner has been captured by the bad guys and she is hiding scared and alone outside of the villain’s lair, Sympathy has a moment of soul-searching as she contemplates venturing back in before it’s too late.  This is “A Story”.

For more information, click here.

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Visit www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com for more information on over 180 contemporary musical theatre writers and 550+ songs, all searchable by voice and song type.

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2 thoughts on “Featured Five, Vol. 5: In Praise of Women

  1. I love this blog and it’s dedication to new and upcoming MT! But still, I wish there was such devotion to the vintage, the classic, old musicals never remember or revived. I find that most young lovers of musical theatre know their Kerrigan & Lowermilk, the Pasek & Paul, Rent, Spring Awakening, Next to Normal but are clueless when it comes to the pre-1950’s!

    I realize that this blog is CLEARLY titled and focused on contemporary works but do you know of a blog that does classic, lesser known works? I feel those could use just as much attention!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. While we appreciate that many young students don’t have knowledge of Golden Age and pre-Golden Age songs and composers, we do feel there are resources to help them learn about this period, which has had the advantage of time to put the repertoire in context.

      Here are a couple resources we think might be useful to you and your students:

      http://www.musicals101.com/ – Curated by John Kenrick, this is a cyber-encyclopedia of musicals of stage and film. It’s an incredible resource. Also check out his book, “Musical Theatre: A History.”

      http://www.pbs.org/wnet/broadway/timelines/ – A neat timeline of musical theatre, based on the documentary “Broadway: The American Musical.”

      http://www.playbillvault.com/ – Touted as, “The largest Broadway database on the internet.” This has a lot more information than most websites – it really drills down to specifics on most shows.

      http://www.ibdb.com/ – This is an invaluable resource as well. Type in a year to the search field and it will pull up what happened that particular season.

      I would argue, however, that just as some students might know Rodgers & Hammerstein but not know Burton Lane, they may know Pasek & Paul but not know Masi Asare. We hope our blog gives teachers insight on a broader selection of contemporary musical theatre writers and songs (or as many as we can come to know… it’s a huge undertaking, as you can imagine).

      I hope that’s helpful! Thanks again for your comment!

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