"Call Me Adam" recently caught up with writer/composer Bobby Cronin who is an Alec Baldwin Fellowship Winner, Dramatists Guild Grant Recipient, and NJ Playwrights Winner for his musicals W2ML, The Concrete Jungle, Sunset City, ‘Til Death Do Us Part, Daybreak, and A Christmas Carol.
Now Bobby has created a new bi-monthly concert series called INSPIRED: A Benefit Concert where musical theatre writers perform songs by other writers that have inspired their work. Each concert will spotlight a charity close to Bobby's heart. Featured in this concert are the ASPCA of NYC and The Last Resort Rescue of NJ. In addition to Bobby himself, INSPIRED: A Benefit Concert will showcase the talents of Brad Alexander, David Are, Carner & Gregor, Drew Fornarola, Michael Holland, Rob Rokicki, Georgia Stitt, Katie Thompson and Michael Patrick Walker.
The first concert is on Sunday, September 22 at 7pm at Stage 72/The Triad Theatre (158 West 72nd Street, 2nd Floor). Click here for tickets!
1. INSPIRED, a benefit concert series is your latest creation. It takes today's musical theatre writers performing songs of those who inspired them. What made you want to create this kind of series? I've been wanting to create a benefit concert for a long time now, but it always was on the back-burner due to deadlines and family events, so I just haven't been able to truly find the time to spearhead a benefit. Then driving home from petsitting a couple of weeks ago (I petsit for some extra cash), I was singing along to a song I love on the radio and it hit me: get some people together to sing songs from the radio or iPod that inspired them. Then I thought, "that's been done." So another lightbulb went off and I went a step further: how about taking a group of writers out of their comfort zone and put them behind a piano to perform songs by other writers that inspired their work; their "sound" if you will. And, like a good song, I immediately had a title and a hook!
2. How do you decide which musical theatre writers will be part of each concert? What was their response when you reached out to them about doing this? As mentioned above, I thought asking composers/lyricists would be extremely interesting. We are so used to going to a writer's concert and seeing actors performing their work. And sometimes we see a composer perform their own work, But, we seldom see writers performing other people's work.
We think we "know" a writer from their material, but I don't think that's 100% true since many of us write for characters who are on a certain journey, probably using our own personal approach to said moment, but it isn't always about ourselves. Sometimes we just write a song for no reason or a stand-alone song, but again...it doesn't fully tell an audience who we are as people. So, I thought why not put the writers in the hot seat and have a discussion with them about who they are, what influenced them musically, what are they working on, etc...And, then to see them actually perform! How exciting will that be?
The ten composers will do one song that inspired their work followed by a second song of their choosing: another song that inspired them, a song of their own, a mash up of a song of their own and a song of inspiration, or any variety thereof.
The response was FANTASTIC! Those that weren't available but extremely interested said "if you do another, let me know!" Composers and writing teams I was unfamiliar with contacted me about performing. Plus, I had a waiting list which made me go "Duh! Let's make this a series!!" INSPIRED 2 will be on November 18th, 7pm! And then I'll do another in late January. Hopefully every 2-3 months.
3. What excites you about having this series on it's feet? I love helping people. I love animals. I love writers. I love giving people opportunities (actors, directors, musical directors, etc...). Also, as a community of writers, we are seldom in the same room! Recently, I was lucky to be in a classroom with about 10 writers who are all a part of http://newmusicaltheatre.com and we had SO much fun together and I just knew that we all needed to spend more time together. So this idea kills like 10 birds with one stone (although, I don't think we want to be throwing any stones at birds!).
Also, in the future, I plan on doing a special INSPIRED concert consisting of Broadway performers who are transitioning into singer/songwriters!
4. What do you hope audiences come away with attending? I want them to feel a sense of community and perhaps to go home and do something to inspire someone else. I want them to know that by coming to see some rare performances by those usually behind the scenes, they have helped save the life of an innocent and helpless animal on death row.
5. Each of these concerts will benefit various charities. Two of them are The ASCPA of NYC and The Last Resort Rescue, both dealing with the treatment of animals. How did you decide to partner with them? What other charities are you hoping to give to? As you know, I am a HUGE animal lover. I think I Tweet and Instagram more photos of my dogs and cat and the various dogs I take care of than I do of anything else!
A little known fact: after I decided to no longer focus on directing and to veer into the writing world, I was an animal emergency triage nurse while waiting for my writing career to take off. I thought about becoming a veterinarian or a doctor, but I loved theatre too much. I worked in a shelter too at one point, I have fostered several dogs, and have had numerous dogs of my own (all but one was from a shelter). My first dog "Frankie" was from the ASPCA and my latest dog "Maggie" is from The Last Resort Rescue. So, I wanted to give back to them first.
Our next benefit will be for The Humane Society of NYC which is where I got my sweet dog "Olive" (yes, she is named after SPELLING BEE). I am also going to have The Last Resort again for the next one as they are trying to buy a new facility in order to help even more animals survive the horrible gas chamber (don't even get me started on this!! HOW is this legal?!?!)
In the future, I plan on adding the 11th Hour Rescue in NJ, The WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals), The Mayor's Alliance for NYC Animals, and the list goes on and on!
6. One of the things I admire about you is your willingness to pay it forward to people and organizations. In addition to having a portion of the proceeds going to the various charities, how do you hope audiences and participants of the concert series pay it forward afterwards? My dream is that this is a catalyst for paying it forward. There is no feeling in the world better than the feeling of helping someone. Yes, I've been walked all over for this Pollyanna-esque belief, but I believe that we were put on this planet to help, not to harm. We each create our own journey, so make the journey a good one by helping someone like a neighbor, a friend, or even a stranger, or a charity that speaks to you like St. Jude's or BC/EFA or the such.
7. Who would you like to perform at an INSPIRED concert that you haven't booked yet? I am trying to represent the various styles of writers in NYC. There are the pop-style writers, the rockers, the classical, the traditional, the comedic, the dramatic, those that represent the voice of youth, those that represent the voice of "wisdom", etc...There are also those who have been working in the business for 20 years and those who have just started the climb, and I'm excited to continue to represent the variety in our community. With that said, of course I would love to have one the "three Stephens" (Schwartz, Flaherty, Sondheim) perform!
8. Since this concert series is all about inspirations, who are some of today's musical theatre writers that inspire you? This is a tough one! I am inspired by so many talented and dedicated writers! Lin Manuel blows my mind. Tom Kitt makes me swoon. Maury Yeston makes me weep. Alan Menken makes me dance and dream bigger. And of course, there are the "three Stephens."