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"Call Me Adam" chats with...

Entries in Lyricist (11)

Thursday
Aug072014

Call Answered: Erik Ransom: Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions: 2014 NYC International Fringe Festival

Erik Ransom"Call Me Adam" chats with Erik Ransom, actor, writer, and composer of Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions, directed by Rachel Klein, which will be part of the 2014 NYC International Fringe Festival from August 8-22 at Theatre 80 in NYC (80 St. Marks Place between 1st & 2nd Avenue). Click here for tickets!

For more on Erik be sure to visit http://www.erikransom.com and follow him on Twitter and Reverbnation!

1. Your show, Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions will be in playing in the NYC Fringe Festival fromAugust 8-22. What excites you about having this show in the NYC Fringe Festival? Any opportunity to wear 8-inch platforms, vinyl leggings and play a glam-rock Antichrist in front of a paying audience is inherently exciting to me. This opportunity is especially so, since it's at an internationally renown festival in the world capital of musical theatre! FringeNYC presents a wonderful opportunity to share this musical with a brand new audience.

2. How do you feel the Fringe will help nurture this show in a way another festival might not? We've got a big, glittery Glamageddon which isn't easy to squeeze into a theatre with eight other shows in rep, but we're lubing it up and forcing it in and Fringe is letting us. Not every festival would support a blasphemous, iconoclastic musical that pointedly questions a lot of things people hold sacred. FringeNYC isn't afraid to push that envelope.

3. Why did you want to write Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions? What made you want to write the music and lyrics in addition to the book? The Unholy Spirit overtook me! Coming was the first musical I ever wrote, and it wasn't something I planned. I wrote a song called "New Sodom" that I was thinking about recording for an album on which I was working at the time. The song was sung from the perspective of a character who claimed to be the hereditary heir to the royal lines of Sodom and Gomorrah. That character became our Antichrist: Damian Salt, the glamtagonist of Coming. The story just started pouring out from there! In five sleepless nights, I wrote 14 songs and a 60 page script. The current production evolved from that first gospel.

Cast of "Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions", Photo Credit: Michael Blase4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I hope we burn their retinas with shiny costumes, and melt their faces with electro-rock! I want people to enjoy themselves, of course, and there is plenty of humor and camp to be found in our show. Let's face it: The title is half dirty joke, half reference to the return of Christ to bring about the Rapture. But, beyond the high camp, I also hope it makes people think and converse about the things you aren't supposed to broach at dinner parties. I think faith can be a surpassingly dangerous thing when it's blind. Between groans and guffaws, I hope our audience will consider that notion.

"Coming" director Rachel Klein5. This show is being directed by Rachel Klein, who also just directed another show you just wrote the lyrics for, The Anthem. What do you like best about working with Rachel? How do you feel her vision combines with yours? We've grown very close. Which is to say she greets me each day by motor-boating my face 'twixt her alabaster décolletage. Rachel's aesthetic is just a really uncanny fit for my work. We share a love of glam which inspired my writing and her direction of this piece, and her role as Self-Proclaimed Queen of the Gays renders her the obvious choice to direct Coming.  I think our symbiotic collaboration has served to elevate the piece and we're already committed to work on future projects after Coming has... climaxed.

Cast of "Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions", Photo Credit: Andrew Cowle6. What excites you about having this cast bring your show to life? Apart from the fact that they're all sexy as hell, which makes the orgy scenes (Yes, scenes!) feel very method, they're insanely talented. They're mining new jokes, and fresh moments from the script and, more than that, they've been incredibly committed and supportive of the project. As an actor, I've been in enough shows where I saw the cast start to lose their faith in the project. Not the case, here! Across the board, the cast has been blowing up Facebook and Twitter with their testaments. As a writer, it gives me a great deal of confidence in the product we're putting out! Speaking of putting out, did I mention they're really sexy?

Erik Ransom and Glen North in "Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions", Photo Credit: Michael Blase7. In addition to writing the show, you are also starring in Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions. What do you identify most with about your character? Being the antichrist, of course! But seriously, Damian Salt is a sort of really heightened, exaggerated version of myself which makes him fit neatly without lube into the heightened exaggerated world of Coming. He likes to dress up and be larger than life and I wrote him that way for a reason. As His Imperial Fierceness, David Bowie, once said: "I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human." I identify strongly with that sentiment. Oh, and I'm a proud Sodomite, so Damian and I have that in common, as well.

8. What have you learned about yourself from being an actor, writer, and composer? I've learned that heavy is the head that wears many hats! Coming was the first musical I'd ever completed back in 2010 when I binge-wrote it in those five days. When I was sitting in my parents' basement writing songs on acoustic guitar at 3 A. M. I honestly had no idea if I was any good at writing. I was pleased with what I was creating, but I had no idea if it was actually good. I've seen a lot of very bad projects put forward by writers who believe in their work just as much as I did. But then we presented Coming in Philadelphia and audiences and critics lauded the show. My very first show! People wanted to work with me. I was called "The Oscar Wilde of Philadelphia"! I was over the moon, but to this day, I look at the work I've completed and I think...Who the fuck did that? Did I really write a whole musical by myself? Then another? Then an opera? It's getting easier, but I don't think I'll ever be able to fully process that I'm actually living out my dreams. Woof! If I ever learn to process that, I will be insufferable.

Erik Ransom and Adam Hostler in "Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions", Photo Credit: Mark A. Dahl9. What's the best advice you've ever received? "Just finish a draft." I think there are two salient problems that writers of theatre face. The first is perfectionism. Art isn't perfect, lest it would be science. If you keep trying to perfect your work before someone sees it, no one ever will. Just finish a draft, then revise. Getting out your initial draft is the hard part of the writing process! The second big problem I see is people who haven't learned their strengths and weaknesses. I know that I'm a good songwriter, but I'm not a good arranger, so I have the brilliant Charles Czarnecki as a collaborator to hone and improve the music I put forth. I'm a good storyteller, but I'm not the most visual thinker, and so I have Rachel Klein's visionary eye to bring the sparkle to the stage. Some people are good at a lot of things. No one is good at everything. Assemble a team that elevates your work. That's the beauty of theatre: It's a collaborative art. A lot of people begrudge that. I bask in it!

10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Immortality. There's just not enough time to write all the shows I have in me!

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. Favorite way to stay in shape? Alcorexia: Starving myself all day so I have enough calories to get blitzed at night.

12. Boxers or Briefs? Dance belt.

13. If could be any original lifesaver flavor, which one would you be? Cherry.

14. How do you want to be remembered? As the Crown Prince of Sodom & Gomorrah, hatched from a Fabergé egg with a disco ball sceptre in hand.

Erik Ransom singingMore on Erik:

Erik Ransom is a composer, playwright, librettist and performer with a diverse body of work. After graduating from The College of New Jersey in 2004 with a degree in music performance, he went on to work extensively as a performer on the stages of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, most recently in the repertory company of My Big Gay Italian Wedding and My Big Gay Italian Funeral.

His first full-length musical, Coming: A Rock Musical of Biblical Proportions was fully produced at The Prince Music Theatre in February 2011— Less than a year after the first draft was begun. Coming played to packed houses and unanimously favorable reviews, including raves from The Huffington Post, Edge Magazine and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

His other produced works include, SAGA The Ragnarok Opera and Tragic Events. Erik also penned the lyrics for the commercial Off-Broadway production of The Anthem which just finished it's limited run at The Culture Project's Lynn Redgrave Theatre. His latest opus, GRINDR The Opera premiered in concert in Spring of 2014, and is currently gearing up for a longer run in the near future.

Friday
Apr182014

Call Answered: Lisa Diana Shapiro Samantha Spade, Ace Detective Interview

Lisa Shapiro"Call Me Adam" chats with writer and lyricist Lisa Diana Shapiro about her new Off-Broadway children's musical Samantha Spade, Ace Detective with music by Georgia Stitt. Samantha Spade, Ace Detective tells the tale of Samantha, a lonely kid who prowls the black & white, rain-washed streets of her film-noir fantasies, as "Samantha Spade, Ace Detective," the go-to gumshoe who always solves the case (for $25 a day, plus Twizzlers).

Samantha Spade, Ace Detective plays from April 26-May 18 at TADA! Youth Theater (15 West 28th Street). Click here for tickets! 

 For more on Samantha Spade, Ace Detective be sure to visit http://samanthaspademystery.com and follow the show on Facebook and Twitter!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a writer/lyricist? I've worked as a stage actor my whole life, but when I moved to Los Angeles for film and tv, the competition was so tough that I started writing plays for myself to act in. I produced my first play myself on a credit card and a loan from my parents, and a wonderful writer by the name of Vivienne Radkoff happened to see it. She took me aside and said, "You have to be a writer," and I've been writing ever since. I think the great thing about the writing community is that we are all constantly reaching out and mentoring the young writers coming up behind us. It's a very giving community.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Wow, that's a laundry list. Julie Andrews, Kristin Chenoweth, Faith Prince, Jodie Foster, Amy Adams. For starters. Oh, and John Kander. And Susan Stroman. And Kathleen Marshall. Should I stop now? I should stop now. I could go on.

3. What made you want to write Samantha Spade, Ace Detective? When I was a little kid, I was obsessed with old movies. (I still am.) I loved The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. To Have and Have Not was one of my favorites, I used to recite Bacall's "you know how to whistle" speech long before I actually knew what it meant. (My big sister taught this to me just for general hilarity's sake. Imagine a six-year-old--no wait, don't.) So I guess this story has always been in me, and when I pitched the idea of a detective story to Janine Nina Trevens at TADA! Youth Theater and she said yes, it just came pouring out of me. Also, I really wanted to have a female detective wearing a swell fedora and solving the crime. Girls never get to wear those great hats.

"Samantha Spade, Ace Detective"4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? It's a family show, written for both kids and their parents. I hope that Samantha Spade, Ace Detective will inspire young people to check out the original movies like The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. I think that the show makes the conventions of these movies, especially the style and the hard-boiled lingo, accessible and fun. Just because a movie is not in color does not mean it is not really cool.

Here's a sneak peak at "Slingin' the Slang," a short film based on one of the songs from Samantha Spade, Ace Detective: http://samanthaspademystery.com/slingin-the-slang/

5. What has been the best part about working with Georgia Stitt? Everything, from top to bottom. Georgia is an insanely talented composer and she got what I wanted to do immediately. The music for the show is so perfectly in the style of the period, while also really fun. Writing with her really challenged me to work at the top of my game, and constantly push to be better. I love the score of this show.

6. What do you like most about writing children's shows? How did you decide to work in the genre? I've worked with kids a lot in my career. I've taught creative drama and improv, I love teaching. I also feel really strongly that children's theatre is what will keep theatre alive in this country. Turn people on to theatre when they are young, they will have a love for it their whole lives. Theatre isn't some elitist, snobby thing, it's an exciting communal experience of telling stories. There is something so wonderful about sitting in a dark room watching live actors take you to another world using only some fabric, some painted wooden walls and your imagination. It's magical.

7. Your first musical, Princess Phooey, was produced at TADA. What made you initially want to work with them and what made you want to come back with Samantha Spade, Ace Detective? I met Janine Nina Trevens when my one-act play, The End of the Story, was chosen for a one-act festival that TADA! used to do. At that point, I had never written a musical, but I really wanted to write one. I kept pestering Nina with ideas every time I saw her, and she liked the Princess Phooey pitch enough to take a chance on me. Princess Phooey was a great experience, and I was so impressed with the high production values at TADA! and the talent and enthusiasm of the kids. Also, Nina has great dramatic instincts and is willing to be adventurous and try new things. It was a no brainer to want to come back.

Cast of "Samantha Spade, Ace Detective"8. Why did you want to write Samantha Spade, Ace Detective in a film-noir genre? What do you like about this style of entertainment? I love these characters. I love how they are so tough and stylish. They lie all the time, but the detective always sees through them, and then they are completely brazen about being liars. Plus I loved the idea of putting a black-and-white movie on the stage, just using the magic of sets, costuming and lighting.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received? Say "yes."

10. What have you learned about yourself from being a writer/lyricist? I've heard it said that every artist tells the same story over and over again. My stories always involve a misfit girl who finds her place in the world by learning to be herself and finding her unique voice. I guess that's me. But I also think that's everybody.

BONUS QUESTION:

11. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? I'd love to be able to fly.

Lisa ShapiroMore on Lisa:

Lisa had her first musical, Princess Phooey (music by Eric Rockwell) produced at TADA! Youth Theater in 2008, selling out its run and garnering rave reviews. Other playwriting credits include the hit comedy Labor Pains, a Comedy in Nine Months, which played a sold-out premiere run at the Victory Theatre in Los Angeles and has been produced regionally. Labor Pains was also a finalist in the New American Comedy Festival and a Backstage West-DramaLogue Garland Award nominee. Aces Wild, Lisa’s first full- length play, premiered at Theatre Geo in Hollywood, winning awards in the FutureFest national play competition, the Jane Chambers Playwriting Competition and the Writer’s Digest Competition. Lisa’s play...and Into the Fire has been workshopped Off-Broadway at Urban Stages and performed as a staged reading at Naked Angels in New York and at the West Coast Ensemble and the Victory Theatre in Los Angeles. Her high-school tour show, The End of the Story, also received a workshop production Off-Broadway at TADA! Youth Theater.

CC

Tuesday
Apr152014

Call Answered: Facetime Interview with the cast of Greed

"Call Me Adam" went behind-the-scenes to New World Stages in NYC to interview the cast and writer, Michael Roberts, of the new Off-Broadway musical Greed: A Musical For Our Times. Find out about the creation of the show as well as why the show is so much fun to perform in! Greed: A Musical For Our Times plays at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street). Click here for tickets!

For more on Greed be sure to visit http://www.greedmusical.com and follow the show on Facebook and Twitter!

Call Me Adam's Video Interview with the cast of Greed:

Michael RobertsMore on Michael Roberts:

Michael Roberts is the author, composer and lyricist of the hit Off-Broadway comedy GOLF: THE MUSICAL. After its critically-acclaimed 2003-2004 Off-Broadway run at the John Houseman Theater, there continue to be dozens of national and international productions. In the nine years since it's New York debut, GOLF has been revived Off-Broadway twice, and has played in twenty-five US states, and in five countries on four continents, from Japan to New Zealand and Scotland. Recently there have been new productions in Texas, Canada, and Finland. He is a two-time recipient of the ASCAP PLUS AWARD for his work in musical theater.

He is the composer and lyricist for the Off-Broadway musical, THE FARTISTE, which won the award for Best Musical at the 2006 Fringe NYC Festival. A successful run Off-Broadway in the 2011-2012 season was followed by a concert performance at The Charing Cross Theatre on London's West End.

His newest musical, (again with FARTISTE collaborator Charlie Schulman), The Goldstein Variations, made its concert debut at the JCC in Manhattan in May, 2008 and has since been produced at American University and in concert at NYC's Abingdon Theatre. It is being prepared for an Off-Broadway opening in 2014. Michael’s Thanks for the Memories, a one-man show about Bob Hope featuring two-time Tony-nominee Joel Blum, received its premiere at Peoria's Prairie Theater in 2006, with a second production in Marin, CA in 2010. He was, for fifteen years, the composer/lyricist and music director for The Broadway Kids, which had a successful run at The Lambs Theater in 2005-2006, and returned to Off-Broadway at New World Stages in December, 2008.

Michael composed the incidental music for 2007's MY SECRET GARDEN at New York's 45th Street Theater, and The Storm Theatre's TIDINGS BROUGHT TO MARY (2009). He also arranged incidental music for the Off-Broadway hit JEWTOPIA.

Michael’s music for the screen includes independent films, documentaries and features, including Tri-Star’s Love Walked In, starring Dennis Leary, and the multiple-award-winning Lemonade Stand. His music for television includes four seasons as a composer for the Emmy-Award-Winning sitcom Remember WENN. Additional television credits include music for ABC, CNN, ESPN, The Golf Channel, and Bravo. As a music director, he has collaborated with Donna Murphy, Rupert Holmes, Richard Kind, Leslie Gore, Hinton Battle, Stephanie Mills, Peter Noone, Bobby Sherman, Joan Rivers, and The Capitol Steps, as well as numerous stage productions. Michael was a nominee for a 2012 Broadway World Award for his work in musical direction.

James DoneganMore on James Donegan:

James appeared Off-Broadway in three editions of FORBIDDEN BROADWAY and on two albums (the Rude Awakening and Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab editions). His CD So Much Spring is available on iTunes. You can also take singing lessons with James (jamesdonegan.net), or he can design your website (jamesdidit.net).

Julia BurrowsMore on Julia Burrows:

Julia is recently back in New York from starring as "Magnolia" in SHOW BOAT with the Central City Opera Company performed at the beautiful 2800 seat theater of The Buell in Denver. A few favorite credits include playing "Marian" in THE MUSIC MAN opposite Peter Scolari at Ogunquit Playhouse; "Lori-Beth" in HAPPY DAYS produced by Garry Marshall at Goodspeed Opera House and Papermill Playhouse and appears on the Original Cast recording; "Cornelia" in PIRATES! at Papermill Playhouse; Company at Reprise! L.A. starring Judith Light and Christopher Sieber; "Darla" in VITAL SIGNS at the Off-Broadway Theater At St. Clements; Les Miserables at Northern Stage; and "Millie" in a concert version of THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE directed by Susan Egan. Julia has performed in many concerts, workshops and readings in New York. To keep updated on Julia, you can visit JuliaBurrows.com.

Neal MayerMore on Neal Mayer:

Neal Mayer recently returned to New York after performing across the U.S. with the national tour of PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT. Neal’s New York credits include the Broadway company of LES MISERABLES and such Off-Broadway shows as FORBIDDEN BROADWAY, BUSH IS BAD (CD), PLAISIR D'AMOUR, and WALMARTOPIA. In addition to the national tour of 101 DALMATIONS (directed by Jerry Zaks), he has appeared at numerous regional theaters such as Arena Stage, Goodspeed, North Shore Music Theatre, Ivoryton Playhouse, Skylight Opera, Weston Playhouse, the Schoolhouse Theater, and the Bushnell. Favorite roles include “Malvolio” in TWELFTH NIGHT, “Harding” in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, “Mendel” in FALSETTOS and “Fagin” in OLIVER! Neal’s television credits include Blue Bloods, All My Children, and numerous sketches on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Neal is happy to reunite with Michael, Chris, and Eric, after previously appearing in GOLF: THE MUSICAL.

Stephanie D'AbruzzoMore on Stephanie D'Abruzzo:

Stephanie D'Abruzzo is best known for her Tony and Drama Desk nominated performances as "Kate" and "Lucy" both off and on Broadway in AVENUE Q, for which she also received a Theatre World Award and a special ensemble award from the Outer Critics’ Circle. She has also graced the New York stage in TOM FOOLERY and THE MAD SHOW (for the York Theatre’s “Musicals in Mufti”), LOVE AND REAL ESTATE, IT MUST BE HIM, STUFFED AND UNSTRUNG, GRAVID WATER at Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre, DON'T SAY ANOTHER WORD, PLAISIR D'AMOUR, IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE AND OTHER STORYBOOKS, I LOVE YOU BECAUSE, and CARNIVAL (Encores!), among others. Regional credits include [title of show] at St. Louis Rep and the world premiere of KNUFFLE BUNNY: A CAUTIONARY MUSICAL at the Kennedy Center. She has appeared in countless benefits and concerts, including Jim Henson’s Musical World and Skitch Henderson’s New Faces of 2004 (both at Carnegie Hall) and Stephen Sondheim’s 75th birthday celebrations in New York and at the Hollywood Bowl. Her TV work ranges from 21 seasons of "Sesame Street" to the musical episode of "Scrubs." She is the product of Pittsburgh, PA and Northwestern University. More information available at: stephaniedabruzzo.com.

Monday
Jan272014

Call Answered: Charlie Sohne and Tim Rosser: Birdland Concert Interview

Charlie Sohne (left) and Tim Rosser (right)

After years of writing shows about everything from creationists, Afghan dancing boys and a Frenchman with a penchant for identity theft, Tim Rosser and Charlie Sohne have had it with each other. They have therefore both decided to launch their solo careers at Birdland. On the same night. At the same time. See them as they bicker over who wrote what in their catalog of songs and decide for yourself who will join the ranks of breakout solo acts like Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake - and who will be relegated to the dustbin of history. Come witness the pair onstage together for the very last time until their inevitable reunion concert.

Charlie Sohne and Tim Rosser's Tim and Charlie Go Solo will play New York City's Birldand Jazz (315 West 44th Street, between 8th & 9th Avenue) on Monday, February 3 at 7pm. Click here for tickets!

For more on Charlie and Tim be sure to visit http://www.rosserandsohne.com and follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Tim Rosser (left) and Charlie Sohne (right)1. Who or what inspired you to become composers/lyricists?

Charlie: I’ve loved musical theater as far back as I can remember – my mom took me to shows and what not -- but in high school it really became part of my identity. I was lucky in that I had friends who were Sondheim geeks and I could talk to them about the new Adam Guettel or Jason Robert Brown or Andrew Lippa album I had just bought and they’d know what the hell I was talking about. I also had two really phenomenal theater teachers, Ms. Hershey, who sort of got me into theater and Ms. Pressman, who really conveyed that theater was something to be treated with the respect and the hard work with which you would treat other subjects. And I guess I started writing at some point around high school and was lucky enough to go to a college where the student theater organizations would give you money to put any crazy idea up on its feet.

Tim: And, actually, that is how I first heard the hallowed name of Charlie Sohne. I was being a polite composition major in the conservatory, minding my own business, while he was out writing a full length musical about hipsters and pissing off all of the southerners on campus. It was marvelous. Somehow I got my hands onto musical theater songbooks when I was a kid and it turned into my drug of choice. I’d play that music instead of practicing for my lessons. Classic theater songs were made to be played on piano and the juicy harmonies are like candy for a classically trained kid. I played my first "13" chord, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? 

Tim: I'm going to say this and everyone is going to roll their eyes because, well, obviously...Audra McDonald.  It's over, I did it, get over it. 

Charlie: Guess that's all there is to say?"

3. On February 3, you are having a concert of your music at Birdland. What excites you about this upcoming show?

Tim: It's our second big concert! I'm excited to show a bunch of our new material from "Run Away Home," our latest effort, and some new songs from "The Boy Who Danced on Air." I'm blown away by how much support I'm getting from my crazy talented friends with this one. I mean, Paul Staroba ladies and gentlemen. He is music directing and I'm convinced he was born with a fancy musical theater spoon in his mouth. And I've got a small but mighty music team on my side, all practically doing this for free. It makes me feel like other people believe in the material as much as I do, and that's the most exciting thing of all! 

Charlie: This is also our first time working with Shoshana Feinstein who is a brilliant concert producer and I’m pretty sure actually knows every single person in musical theater.

Tim: ShoFein is a goddess.

Charlie: And of course, the cast: we’re getting to work with many of our absolute favorite people…so there’s really no downside.

4. What do you like about performing at Birdland? What does this venue offer you that another one might not? 

Tim: I've always dreamed of doing a show at Birdland. I know and love the Manhattan Transfer song. Same reason I want to do a show at Berkeley Square, wherever that is. Seriously, it's a beautiful club and it's got this amazing legacy. To be allowed to be part of that, in this small way, is such a gift. That's New York for you. So many things that we revere happened right here.

Charlie: Yeah, it makes us sound classy too because it’s called a "jazz club."

Tim: We’re all going to have excellent posture at this concert. I’m going to comb my hair for sure.

5. What do you hope audiences come away with after hearing your music?

Charlie: I think we want people to feel the way we felt when we first came up with the idea for the show or read the source material. We choose what we write because the material smacks us in the face in way that leaves us going "that really exists!?" I think that if, over the course of a show, you go places you’ve never been, you develop empathy for people who first seemed distant, you hear music that feels fresh and unlike what you’ve heard in a theater before and, generally, if you’re moved by what you’ve seen – we’ll be happy.

Tim: And it would be great if people want to see the shows these songs have been written for. These songs are tips of icebergs. Which makes them sound as dangerous as they are!

Tim Rosser6. How did you and Tim first come to work together? 

Charlie: We went to the same college, Oberlin – and we didn’t know each other there, but a mutual friend recorded demos for both of us and sort of set us up. Tim, at the time, had a collaborator but recommended I go into the BMI Workshop – that’s where he was and that’s where we both learned a lot about the craft of songwriting. And that worked out well because we basically had the same education from two vastly different institutions – so I think it lead to a unique outlook. And that really helped when Tim finally drove his previous collaborator into the seminary and therefore needed to find someone else to work with.

Tim: It’s proven harder to drive this Jew into the seminary, but I’m working on it.

7. What has been the best part about this venture? 

Tim: We're doing a lot of new stuff, and I'm very excited about that, but I must say -- I am loving revisiting songs and orchestrations, taking what I've learned about them in the past year and trying to improve them.  We're using a lot of flugelhorn in this concert and I'm obsessed with it. I did "She Loves Me" this summer with a chamber pit, and I was so taken with the trumpet/flugel part. It's right at home in a small ensemble, and it's capable of such great effects. I know I'm going to go overboard with it and make some mistakes, but challenge: accepted.

Charlie: It’s also great to work on songs in the context of a concert – it reveals another side to them. I think we’re very "show focused" writers, which generally is a good thing, but it’s nice to be reminded of how awesome it can be to craft a song in a way that it can also stand alone on stage without context or costumes or staging.

Charlie Sohne8. What have you learned about yourselves from being composers/lyricists and from working together?

Tim: It's amazing to me how different my life is from what it would be if Charlie and I weren't writing shows together. Somehow, in a short time, everything I do has come to revolve around our projects. It's really wonderful, I'm very grateful. I've learned that the things I thought were my assets as a composer and person are just plain who I am, and the things I thought were my flaws are just who I am not. Luckily, Charlie is a lot of things I'm not and vice versa. That's lucky.

Charlie: Yeah, that’s actually something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently – because very often, we try to stretch ourselves by purposely writing things that are different from how we would normally approach a song. And what’s kind of remarkable is learning that the products of those exercises – while always helpful – are more often than not a lot more similar to the way we normally write than we expected. To a certain extent, you can’t escape yourself.

Tim: Aaaaaah, get me out!

Charlie: Shhhh. Not now.

9. What's the best advice you've ever received?

Charlie: I think for both us, ASCAP’s Johnny Mercer Retreat was really defining – it was moderated by Andrew Lippa and Craig Carnelia and they were very active in shaping the way we think about writing. I think it was our first presentation where Andrew was like "you don’t have to try and show off everything you can do with every song." Basically giving us the freedom to clear away a lot of the BS that we thought was what made us different but to a certain extent was us focusing on tricks that didn’t really serve the dramatic moment.

Tim: I mean, these guys are consummate theatre professionals. There is really no end to their knowledge base and breadth of experience. The Johnny Mercer retreat is a really exceptional program. I’ll never forget it.

10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?

Tim: The ability to grant wishes!

Charlie: Moderation.

Tim: Haha. That’s so depressing!

Tim Rosser (left) and Charlie Sohne (right)More on Charlie and Tim:

Tim Rosser and Charlie Sohne were finalists for the 2013 Ebb Award. Their most recent show was The Boy Who Danced on Air (2013 NAMTFestival of New Works, 2013 Rodgers Award Finalist, developed through The Lark’s Monthly Meeting of the Minds and Roundtables). Previously, they wrote The Profit of Creation (2011 Yale Institute for Musical Theater,one of ten finalists for the O’Neill Music Theater Conference 2011 and 2012, developed at The Lark and through ASCAP’s 2010 Johnny Mercer Songwriters Program) and the short musical Political Speeches (The CultureProject’s IMPACT Series). Their work has been seen in a sold-out 54 Below Show, Cutting Edge Composers at Joe’s Pub, NYTB at the D-Lounge, NEXT’s EmergingComposers Series, and The Holiday Concert at the Lincoln Center Library. They were both members of the Advanced Class of the BMI Workshop.

Friday
Oct042013

Eileen Bluestone Sherman: Perfect Picture Interview

Eileen Bluestone ShermanA playwright, lyricist, children’s author, television writer, and theatre producer, Eileen Bluestone Sherman wrote her first musical for young audiences for Hallmark’s Coterie Theatre in 1982. Since then, her many plays entertained audiences around the country, and her books delighted readers around the world. 

Eileen's latest project is her new CD Perfect Picture, a studio cast recording of the new musical inspired by the life of Norman Rockwell, featuring such Broadway favorites as Debbie Gravitte, Ron Holgate, Judy Kaye, Mark Jacoby, Beth Leavel, Andrea McArdle, Emily Skinner, Randy Skinner, Bob Stillman, Tom Wopat, Lillias White, and Karen Ziemba. Perfect Picture releases later in October, available at the Broadway Cares Online Store, but musical theatre fans can enjoy a pre-release concert on Monday night, October 7th when cast members present selections at the Drama League (32 Avenue of the Americas). Click here for tickets!

For more on Eileen be sure to visit http://ebsoriginals.xbuild.com!

Tom Wopat recording "Perfect Picture" CD1. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright? First, Adam, I would like to thank you for your interest in Perfect Picture. I'm really excited about our CD's debut. Now, you may or may not know that I am also a young adult novelist. However, growing up, I never considered a career in writing, although I was an avid reader. I skipped most of the standard children's literature and, at nine years old, graduated from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women to Harold Robbins' A Stone For Danny Fisher. Yes, I know that's quite a leap! Of course, musical theatre was my first love. I was that kid who sang and danced around the living room while I blasted the albums from Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, Gypsy and Fiorella over and over and over and over again!! Just by coincidence, when I moved to Kansas City with my husband, I happened to notice an audition notice in The Kansas City Star for a relatively new family theater called "The Coterie." On a whim, I auditioned. Afterward, the director inquired where she might find my monologue. When I told her I wrote it, she asked if I would be interested in writing a musical for her new company. Without missing a beat, I said, "SURE!" That year I made the most amazing self- discovery. I learned that what I love about theatre is the art of storytelling. I really think it goes back to my impressionable years reading Harold Robbins.

2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? Perfect Picture is my second CD to feature an incredible all-star Broadway cast. My first, The Odd Potato: The Broadway Album included 20 Tony Award Winners with cameos from the legendary Hal Prince and Elaine Stritch. Honestly, I listen to BOTH albums and pinch myself. Broadway's greatest talents have performed my work. That said, I still have a growing list of favorites. The VERY short answer? Hugh Jackman.

3. What made you want to be part of the creative team for Perfect Picture? I think the more accurate question is what made me want to write Perfect Picture. I really credit my husband. Years ago, we were enjoying a family vacation in New England, and we discovered a tiny Norman Rockwell gallery in Arlington, Vermont. We learned that all the volunteers at the gallery were former neighbors of the Rockwell family and that they or their family members posed for the artist. I was intrigued, but once we returned home to Kansas City, I didn't give Mr. Rockwell another thought. Then, one day, my husband returned home from the public library with a book called Norman Rockwell: My Adventures As An Illustrator, an autobiography by Norman Rockwell as told to his son, Thomas Rockwell. The writing was lyrical. Titles of songs popped off the page. The opening description at a seedy side-show, featuring a larger than life carnival performer named "Amy the Wild Woman," was pure musical theatre. Of course, what fascinated me most was the lesson Norman learned as a 10 year old kid at that side-show. "Don't show life as it really is, but how folks want it to be." The artist admitted that theme guided the spirit of his early work resulting in fabulous fame and fortune but costing him dearly among the art elite. Curiously enough, even his book glossed over more painful and even shocking details about his personal life. What he did reveal was totally unexpected. Needless to say, I decided hidden in the text was a fabulous musical and poignant love story. At the time, my sister, Gail C. Bluestone, and I were writing musicals for a Chicago television series for kids called The Magic Door. I called her and told her about our next project. It's been quite an adventure and a true family endeavor.

4. What was it like to write lyrics about a well-known public figure? It's funny. I never thought about it that way. I simply tried to tell a compelling, memorable, and authentic tale. Obviously, the lyrics have to serve the story. Mr. Rockwell was heroic, passionate, fiercely loyal, and determined. Still, like all of us, he was flawed, and at times, those flaws created serious conflict…….but for our purposes, great drama. Really, he's an ideal protagonist.

Lillias White recording "Perfect Picture" CD5. You wrote the lyrics, while your sister wrote the music for Perfect Picture. What was the best part about working with your sister on this project? How did your relationship strengthen as a result? I love Gail's music, and I'm not the only one. After almost every recording session, I would hear from a Broadway artist how beautiful or hummable or how much fun a rhythm was of a particular song. More than once, I heard how they just could not get a song out of their head. I always took that as a very good sign! Of course, every single song begins as a crazy puzzle, and it's the actual work that strengthens a partnership. There's nothing like struggling and finally succeeding to cement a relationship. But, we're lucky. Our biggest champion was and remains our Studio Producer, Joshua Sherman, who also happens to be my son. From start to finish, Josh knew exactly what he wanted from a song. In the recording studio, he was an amazing captain of the ship, directing each performer, adjusting arrangements and tempos with our Musical Director, Sam Willmott, and supervising every engineering nuance. Inevitably, after each initial recording, our test audience was my husband and daughter. Oh, Jenny by the way, is also my entertainment lawyer. See what I mean? Perfect Picture is a family endeavor. Actually, my kids and husband have been instrumental in all my writing projects for years. Our family company is called 6-10 PRODUCTIONS, L.L.C.

6. What do you hope audiences come away with after listening to the CD? Even when I was a very little girl dancing in my living room to "Hernando's Hideaway," I understood an album's effect. While the recording can never completely fulfill the "in the moment" experience of watching live theatre, every subtlety of a great album transports the listener into the world of the musical. I hope audiences listen to the CD and share my fascination with Norman Rockwell and the women he loved and lost. I hope they want to play the CD over and over again, trying to simulate a powerful theatre experience. I hope they love the songs and sing them in the shower. I hope some other five year old hears the music and wants to dance around her living room.

7. You've got quite a roster of performers on Perfect Picture...Debbie Gravitte, Lillias White, Beth Leavel, Andrea McArdle, Judy Kaye, Tom Wopat, Emily Skinner, and many others. How was it decided which performers would be asked to be on the CD? To be exact, we have a cast of twelve distinguished award winning Broadway artists. The list includes Debbie Gravitte, Ron Holgate, Judy Kaye, Mark Jacoby, Beth Leavel, Andrea McArdle, Emily Skinner, Randy Skinner, Bob Stillman, Tom Wopat, Lillias White, and Karen Ziemba. By anyone's standard, it's a dream cast! Actually, Josh and I always figure this part out together. This time, we immediately reached out to several actors with whom we worked previously and adored and then approached other new artists, whom we admired from shows we love. Josh and I know the exact qualities we want for each song. It's easy to get what you want when you work with the best. Everyone was fabulous in the studio. My fingers are crossed that I will be working with all of them, again, soon. Of course, anyone can go to my website www.ebsoriginals.com and preview their terrific performances.

8. What have you learned about yourself from being a playwright and lyricist? Listen carefully…… even when no one is speaking. Pauses can be very informative.

Bob Stillman recording "Perfect Picture" CD9. What's the best advice you've ever received? Never, Never, Never give up! My husband says my personal theme is Dorothy Fields' lyric, "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over, again." Hey, it's not over till it's over!

10. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Actually, I'm not a "super hero" sort of gal, although I loved Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man. (Of course, I love him in everything!) However, I always adored "Samantha" on Bewitched. Yes, I know she's a witch, but a really, really cute one. Still, to be able to wiggle my nose, and make things the way I want them to be, sounds heavenly. I mean that wiggle included everything! (She could fly, be invisible, travel through time, even change nasty gossips into clucking hens….) Of course, I am always reminded to be careful what I wish for. Like it or not, in the end, only tenacity, sweat, and guts win the day. O.K. If I can still have that magic wiggle, I'll just use it for washing dishes. Deal?

Eileen Blueman Sherman with her book "The Odd Potato"More on Eileen:

Her novels for young adults include Monday In Odessa, Idependence Avenue, and The Violin Players. Perhaps, her most popular story is The Odd Potato, originally a picture book, adapted for stage, television, and CD.

Through the years, her work received numerous honors, including two Emmy Awards, The National Jewish Book Award, The International Reading Association’s Teacher’s Choice Award, and a Thorpe Menn Honorable Mention Award.  Several years ago, the author received the distinct honor of being listed on Kansas City’s Central Library’s "Community Bookshelf," nationally acclaimed free-standing public art at Tenth and Baltimore.

When writing new musicals, Eileen collaborates with her sister, Gail Bluestone, an award-winning composer and educator in Los Angeles.

In 2003, Eileen formed her family’s Production Company, 6-10 PRODUCTIONS to produce the New York holiday event, Broadway Sings The Odd Potato, starring (Batmans original Riddler) Frank Gorshin. In 2005, the CD followed. The Odd Potato: The Broadway Album features 20 Tony Award winners, with narration by Judd Hirsch. The CD competed in the 49th Grammy Awards Contest in the category of "Best Musical Show Album" and raises money every holiday season for special needs children.

Currently, 6-10 PRODUCTIONS is developing a new children's CD, called Listen Up! starring the Tony and Emmy Award winner, Broadway Diva, Lillias White, singing a variety of novelty songs composed by the Bluestone Sisters for their many family-friendly shows.

Eileen is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, The Authors Guild, Inc., ASCAP, The Drama League, and The Recording Academy, where she serves as a Grammy Voter.