Live from NYMF – Vol. 3

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

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The New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF)New York Musical Theatre Festival began its second week of programming Monday. If you missed our first 2 NYMF blogs you can read them here.

David and I kept very busy last week catching as many shows as we could between performances of Searching for Romeo. We’re happy to report there’s lots of great new contemporary musical theatre happening here!

Musical styles run the gamut from traditional musical theatre, to retro pop, country, rock and  bluegrass. If you can get to NYC and see some of these shows for yourself, we highly recommend you do so. Tickets to all shows are only $25. If you can’t get here, you can still hear some of the music by clicking on the music/video links on each show’s page on the NYMF website.

For this blog, we asked our guest bloggers about all the changes that have happened since rehearsals began.

BAYONETS OFbayonets_of_angst ANGST

Blogger – Rick Kunzi (Book/Music/Lyrics)
 

Have you rewritten/added/cut a song or songs since the beginning of your rehearsal process? We originally had a solo number titled “Mary Todd’s Lament” where Mary Todd was able to have a side moment with the audience.  We decided to replace that number with “It’s a Mad, Mad World,” a Lincoln/Mary Todd duet that furthered the narrative of their relationship.  Since then it’s become one of the strongest numbers in the show.

Give a specific example of how the director, musical director or cast has positively influenced the shape of the musical. Michael Lluberes (Director) is a truly gifted storyteller.  It’s been a pleasure watching him create a hilarious vision while keeping it grounded in reality.  He’s also worked very hard to maintain a sculpted ensemble while still finding moments that highlight each character individually.  Not only has this resulted in a strong comedic core but has also built a camaraderie of teamwork within the ensemble.

For more information and tickets, click here.

clonedCLONED!

Blogger – Tom Wojtunik (Director)

What’s been the hardest part of working on the show? The most rewarding? Cloned! is a door-slamming farce, so the design elements (costumes, props, set pieces–doors!) are essential to the timing and the comedy. We weren’t able to add all of that until the last week of rehearsals, during which we had to essentially rethink some of the staging to figure out a the right timing. It’s really the kind of show that ideally would be rehearsed on the set from day one. The most rewarding thing about working on Cloned! was enjoying how everything came together once we finally added those elements.

Give a specific example of how the director, musical director or cast has positively influenced the shape of the musical. It’s not exaggeration to say that everyone involved with Cloned! has had a major hand in shaping the show that is currently running at NYMF. There are a lot of times when underscoring and musical accents from the band are crucial to making a moment in the show work. At NYMF we have the added disadvantage of the band (and MD) not having great sight lines to the actors (and vice versa). Our MD, Julianne Merrill has helped us solve those problems with some smart fail-safe solutions that I never would have dreamed of.

For more information and tickets, click here.

COMING OF AGEcoming_of_age

Blogger – Jon Provan (Book/Music/Lyrics, Producer and Musical Director)

What’s been the hardest part of working on the show? The most rewarding? The hardest part has been the uncertainty. As someone responsible for the material, the finances, and the very personal investment from family, friends and colleagues, I knew this production had to be great, but it’s hard to be confident at particular junctions — before fundraising begins, before casting is complete, before shows are sold out, etc. I am fortunate, grateful and overjoyed to report that everything worked out far, far better than I had ever dreamed, thanks to a deluge of love and effort from many, many people.

Give a specific example of how the director, musical director or cast has positively influenced the shape of the musical. In our workshop, the ages of the cast members were much closer to each other. For NYMF, we have a wider spread, so there’s a significant age gap between the three pairs (Girl/Boy, Young Woman/Young Man, Woman/Man). We’re now able to play the relationships between them with much more variety. We have real mothers and daughters, older brothers, grown-up versions of the same character, and more. This amplifies the physical and emotional dynamics of the show tenfold.

Can you talk about a specific example of how actor feedback has helped shape the show? We have a song (“Daughters And Sons”) about the disillusionment that occurs when you grow up. Early in the rehearsal process, Katy Blake, who plays the mother in that scene, pushed back hard against the way we were presenting it at the time, which was more along the lines of the mother bucking tradition. Katy saw it more as a veteran of life delivering a sorrowful truth. There are elements of both sides that are necessary, but the end result was a spirited discussion that led to many more spirited discussions about each song, clarifying the consensus for every moment of the show. From beginning to end, we now have a laser focus, conceptually.

For more information and tickets, click here.

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Blogger – Chris Anselmo (Music/Lyrics)

Have you rewritten/added/cut a song or songs since the beginning of your rehearsal process? I almost giggled when I read this question. The amount that this show has evolved since day one is tremendous! I believe each song has been re-worked and re-written in some capacity – always for the better. Seeing it up on it’s feet really gives me a chance as the songwriter to see what works and what doesn’t.

Give a specific example of how the director, musical director or cast has positively influenced the shape of the musical. Our musical director, Karen Dryer, is a huge asset. She really knows her stuff when it comes to musical dramaturgy, and she has really helped me create a cohesive score – rather than a series of songs (which tends to be the case with new musicals).

With limited rehearsal time, can you talk about the process of how rewrites happen? Upon entering Northwestern in 2012, a professor of mine told me that there are 4 things I’m going to need to do in life – eat, sleep, socialize, and work. Let’s just say that rule applies to new musicals, and sleep has been at the bottom of my list!!

For more information and tickets, click here.

10257506_632017230199659_4457417224283826225_oMADAME INFAMY

Blogger – Cardozie Jones (music/lyrics) 
 

What’s been the hardest part of working on the show? The most rewarding? The equally most rewarding and challenging part of working on the show has been our mission to ensure that each of our two protagonists carry the same weight in terms of substance and narrative. Over the years, many people have asked why we don’t just tell one story; it would make things a great deal easier. But, for us, there is no other option. Madame Infamy is the story of two women, a queen and slave, born into worlds where choice was something to be fought for. Their fight is the story. The process of having explored and picked apart those worlds has been an arduous one, but also a privilege.

Have you rewritten/added/cut a song or songs since the beginning of your rehearsal process?  Sean and I joke around that with the amount of music that has come and gone from this show over the past six years, we’re going to have one epic song cycle on our hands. Songs are added and cut for the same reasons scenes are: the story is still evolving. As the story and characters grow and change, the words on the page must adapt. In the end, we want people to walk away having experienced a story that is whole and cohesive. To ensure that, sometimes sacrifices have to be made to the musical theatre gods.

For more information and tickets, click here.

searching_for_romeoSEARCHING FOR ROMEO

Blogger: Brian Sutton (Book/Music/Lyrics)
 

What’s been the hardest part of working on the show? The most rewarding? The hardest part has been simply handling the amount of time and effort I’ve had to put in, and keeping track of everything involved with simultaneously revising the show and producing it. The most rewarding has been working with so many talented (and nice) people, and refining the script while seeing a professional-level production of the show take shape.

Give a specific example of how the director, musical director or cast has positively influenced the shape of the musical. The director [Laura Josepher] has been a huge influence on the script itself, mostly by urging me to focus more exclusively on the central characters and their conflict with the antagonist and to minimize digressions, and also urging me to shorten verbosely worded dialogue. The musical director [David Sisco] has doubled as the arranger, and the arrangements have not only enhanced the songs but also sometimes changed their structure for the better, often by making them more concise. The director and the three actors playing the central characters, during a brainstorming session, contributed significantly to restructuring Act Two.

With limited rehearsal time, can you talk about the process of how rewrites happen? Frantically. Most evenings I’d leave rehearsal with “homework.” I’d then crank out revisions at night, and either the stage manager or I would struggle to get the new pages copied and ready for the cast by the next day’s rehearsal. I’m not sure how cast members can make their way through the script with all its changes and revisions of revisions of revisions.

For more information and tickets, click here.

thesnowqueen-nymf-artworkTHE SNOW QUEEN

Blogger: Haddon Kime (Music/Lyrics)
 

What’s been the hardest part of working on the show? The most rewarding? I have learned that I, as the show’s composer, am but one voice in shaping the contours of how our story is told. Though my perspective is important, it is still just one perspective. Fostering an environment where a diversity of perspectives can be heard while working toward a common goal helps everyone. It has been the most challenging and rewarding part of working on The Snow Queen.

Have you rewritten/added/cut a song or songs since the beginning of your rehearsal process? One of my favorite revisions to the show comes near the end of the first act during a song that Gerda (our heroine) sings called “Alone.” Gerda is about to give up, having found herself alone in the cold, with no hope of finding her best friend Kai who she set out to save. It is Gerda’s only solo piece in the entire show. Midway through the rewriting of this project we realized that, at this point in the story, many miles away, Kai is dealing with the same type of lonely feeling. In the NYMF show we’ve rewritten the song. It’s now titled “Alone, Together.” Now Kai and Gerda each have a section of the song that they sing before they come together in counterpoint at the end. Now, in this moment, they are best friends with a shared history, and complete strangers facing different challenges. They are now alone, together.

For more information and tickets, click here.

Travels---Website-Home-Image-2THE TRAVELS

Blogger: Aaron Ricciardi (Book/Lyrics)
 

What’s been the hardest part of working on the show? The most rewarding? The hardest part has been killing our darlings: cutting songs and writing new ones to replace them. The most rewarding part has been looking back to see how much more effective the new songs are than the darlings we killed!

Have you rewritten/added/cut a song or songs since the beginning of your rehearsal process? Of the nine songs in the show, six of them either are replacements of cut songs, or they’re old songs that have been entirely rewritten. Brecht’s plays were my first inspiration in writing this play, particularly how they use songs as commentary rather than as part of the narrative. The changes to the songs have all been about nailing their tone in order to clarify that purpose. Now each song lives in its own distinct stylistic world–punk rock song, down-home country, blues, etc.–whereas most of the songs used to have a Duncan Shiek-esque, coffee-shop feel that made commentary unclear.

Can you talk about a specific example of how actor feedback has helped shape the show? This play is set in a dystopian American future–a pretty exotic setting that comes straight from my kooky imagination. I’ve been working on the show for so long that I’m no longer sure whether the rules of the world are clear to someone who’s unfamiliar with the story. I’m too deep in it! So it’s been great to have actors–all of whom are new to this project–around to ask questions about what’s unclear to them. That’s been incredibly helpful in preparation for sharing this show with an audience.

For more information and tickets, click here.

ValueVilleVALUEVILLE

Blogger: Donna Lynne Champlin (Director) 
 

What’s been the hardest part of working on the show? The most rewarding? The hardest part for me was the casting process. I had this fantasy that casting would be easy for me because I’m an actor, and in some cases it was. But when we had to decide between two equally amazing, yet completely different actors (or actresses), it was heartbreaking, really. So hard. I wanted everyone to win there. The most rewarding part has been having the final say on things. My greatest fear going into this was that I would be overwhelmed by all the responsibility a director takes on, but I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed being where the buck stops.

Have you rewritten/added/cut a song or songs since the beginning of your rehearsal process? We did most of our score work in pre-production, but our biggest score change during rehearsals was adding a new song for our leading lady “Meg”. After the first table read we all realized that “Meg” needed a kick ass 11 o’clock number so RC went away for 24 hours and came back with this amazing, pop-rock song called “Strike The Match”. It blew us all away.

Can you talk about a specific example of how actor feedback has helped shape the show? We just had a moment the other day in rehearsal where we were dealing with a very difficult ‘multi-reality’ moment and a couple of the actors were understandably confused as to how they should react to something. I honestly, did not have an answer for them. So, I asked them if they had a solution or if we needed RC to do a rewrite. And Karl Josef Co came up with a brilliant, actor-intention solution that solved everything. It was a problem solve that could have taken a couple days to rewrite if we hadn’t had Karl in the cast, but because he was in the room, it took two minutes.

With limited rehearsal time, can you talk about the process of how rewrites happen? I’m all for changes, but after a certain point in the process, you’ve got to stop putting them in so the actors can at least get a grip on the show they have, wherever it is. So I insisted on as much rewriting in pre-production as was possible, and then I put a deadline on all rewrites by the end of the third week of rehearsal. Our whole fourth and final week is about the actors finding their groove and the crew and design team stepping in and preparing for tech.

For more information and tickets click here.

WikiMusical_Logo_LowResWeb_TransparentWIKIMUSICAL

Bloggers: Frank Ceruzzi (Book/Lyrics) & Blake J. Harris (Book/Lyrics) 
 

What’s been the hardest part of working on the show? The most rewarding? Blake: The hardest part of the show has been raising the money to put it on. Frank and I love the show more than just about anything in the world and wish we could pay for it all ourselves, but to do the show the right way that’s just not possible. So it’s been a struggle to make it happen but our incredible cast and crew inspire us to keep pushing. Without a doubt they’ve been the most rewarding part of the process; the ones responsible for making the show real and taking it to the next level.

Have you rewritten/added/cut a song or songs since the beginning of your rehearsal process? Frank: Once we decided to move to a two-act structure, we knew that we needed a new musical moment for the opening to Act Two. So we added a song called “Level Up,” which finds our main characters trapped inside a video game; in order to survive, they must beat the last level of the game. The song also works on a meta-level, as we are beginning the second act of the show, and the stakes are higher for our characters now as well.

Can you talk about a specific example of how actor feedback has helped shape the show? Frank: Barry Shafrin plays a host of eccentric characters in the show, including Mittens McMittens, a rapping kitten who may have helped to create the Internet. In addition to being a comic genius, Barry asks great questions about character motivation and line readings, and he helped us to reimagine Mittens McMittens a bit for the stage. One afternoon, Barry and I spent some time outside of the rehearsal room looking at a few problematic lyrics and I rewrote those lines for him based on his feedback!

For more information and tickets click here.

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