And maybe in 2015 I'll update a little more!
Well, it's a been bit of whirlwind, but January is starting off on the right foot. 2014 ended on a high note when my new Christmas song - "The First Time" - premiered at Lincoln Center at the Broadway's Future Songbook Series Holiday Concert. Thrilled to have it performed by the incomparable Emma Davis (who played Belle in the world premiere Royal Fables this past fall) accompanied by Jeremy M. Franze and Jimmy Lopez.
This week, I got some good news. My song "Fall Away" (performed in the Royal Fables premiere by Emma Davis... I'm sensing a pattern) received Honorable Mention in the 2014 SongDoor International Songwriting Competition - Hard Rock category. Another Royal Fables tune ("Demon Dance") received an Honorable Mention in the 2013 contest, so it's an honor to received the recognition again. Take a listen below!
Right now, Libra Theater Company is in performances for Kind Souls, a new play by Tom Diggs. It's a fantastic, visceral piece directed by my buddy Alexander Greenfield who's been making his mark on Broadway and down in Atlanta, so definitely come check it out. More info HERE!
And this Sunday, January 24th, my writing partner Amy and I are being featured in the sixth Cutting-Edge Composers concert at 54 Below. Kacie Sheik for the amazing Broadway production of Hair will be singing our song "Spinning" (from Unbound) with a full band - and you're going to want to see it. The show's at 9:30pm with a long list of Broadway performers. Head to the 54 Below website to get more info. I'd love to see everyone there!
And maybe in 2015 I'll update a little more!
For anyone who's reading, last post I gave a rundown of a couple songs from my new song and dance cycle Royal Fables. If you read that and were just itching to see more videos... FEAR NOT! I've got more for you today. Read on (and watch on) and enjoy!
Up first, we've got one of the title characters from the fairy tale "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" or "The Shoes That Danced Themselves to Pieces." (The character is a princess, not a shoe.) In either the Grimm or the Andersen version - whichever you prefer - twelve sister princesses whisk themselves away every evening to an underground kingdom where they dance all night with twelve princes (or demons or "figures" - again, whatever you prefer). This always felt like such a dark and passionate tale to me, so that's what I tried to portray in my song "Demon Dance." This is one of the songs that I'm most proud of - and AnnMarie Powers KILLS it in the best possible way. You'll want to watch this...
Moving onto something a little lighter, we meet the young woman and lead character of "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," - a weird little Norwegian tale about a princess who ends up inadvertently banishing her lover/prince-in-disguise to a fate worse than death and must find him and rescue him. It's long and involved, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't listen to the song. In writing this song, I wanted to embrace the hopeful side of this woman's story. Yes, she banished her lover and isn't quite sure where to find him now... BUT... she's determined, and she knows in her heart that she'll succeed. I had all these big-and-bold ballads in mind, but what emerged is a sort of country-crossover tune, sung here by Julianna Espinosa.
Let's take it back to another Andersen tale: "The Little Mermaid." But forget the Disney movie. I took a jazzier angle with our favorite mermaid. Take a look here at the crooning stylings of Sarah Treanor.
And, while we're back on Andersen, let's talk about "The Princess and the Pea." She proved that she was a princess by feeling a pea buried underneath a tower of mattresses. But what if that physical sensitivity when further? What if this princess was so understanding and had so much empathy that even Darth Vader, Batman, or David Mamet would open up to her? And out of that came this lovely ballad - "Underneath" - sung by Elena Juliano.
And finally, we come to what I would guess is the most classic of all the fairy tales. You guessed it. "Cinderella." I wanted to do something different with this princess. Give her a little edge. After all, she's repressed by her family and just wants to dance. In rehearsals for the workshop at NYU last month, the music director and I kept telling our Cinderella - Dayana Yos - to channel her inner Avril Lavigne. I don't know what that says for my taste in some music, but I do think she delivered. Check out Dayana singing "The Night Goes On" with a chorus of ladies here.
All right. That's all for now from Royal Fables land. But I've got some exciting news about the show coming up soon, so be sure to stay tuned!
So last month, I had a workshop of my new piece Royal Fables at NYU courtesy of the lovely and talented ladies in the Steinhardt Vocal Performance program. We've culled some great video from the show, and I thought, "Why not show it off?" So take a brief tour through the fairy tale princesses of Royal Fables. And be sure to drop me a line with your thoughts (or if you'd like sheet music for any of the songs - I'm happy to share it with you).
So first up, we have Sleeping Beauty, played by the fantastic freshman Cathy Ang. I wanted to do something a little different with Sleeping Beauty. What would happen if she woke up and the prince in front of her was nothing like what she'd dreamed? She'd be angry, right? I thought so, and this song - "Sleep Song" - happened. I'd be lying if I didn't say that I wasn't a little inspired by The Civil Wars for this tune. I think it's one of my favorites.
Now we move onto our other sleeping princess - Snow White. Snow White is always seen as a victim. A sweet innocent that was conned into a sleeping curse. But what if she wanted to sleep? What if she was so tired of the world and all the hate around her and just needed a break? I loved that thought, and taking some inspiration from bands like The Wailin' Jennys, Chasing Blue, and Nickel Creek, I wrote "The Chase" - performed here by Dylan Landau.
Of course, I wasn't going to write a song cycle about princesses without my favorite princess - Belle. I've always loved Beauty and the Beast. It's one of the only fairy tales in which both the hero and the heroine actually feel well developed and where the lovers actually take time to get to know each other. So I wanted to do the characters justice. In Royal Fables, Belle and the Beast enter to a long and beautiful dance sequence (not pictured here), during which they meet, fall in love, and - of course - reach the end of their relationship (or so we think) when the Beast dies. And then, my song "Fall Away" kicks in. It's sung below by the amazing Emma Davis, and even though I've made a couple changes to the song from what's here, I thought it was a bit of an injustice to not post this video.
And as in the fairy tale, Belle and the Beast are reunited, destined to be together forever. But as they fall into each other's arms, I've brought another princess to watch from the shadows. This is Rose Red. Never heard of her? I'm not surprised. There's a Grimm tale called Snow White (a different one) and Rose Red. These two girls spend the entire story getting to know and basically falling in love with a bear (yes... a bear) who's really a prince. And when the curse is broken and returns to his real form, he arbitrarily picks Snow White as his bride and leaves Rose Red to his cousin or drinking buddy or something. Poor Rose Red. To have an equal claim on love and lose it to someone who already has her name on another fairy tale! I thought this concept was really interesting and worth expanding on, so I wrote "How Love Should Go," performed here by Hayley Biegel (who's a great singer/songwriter in her own right).
All in all, I wrote songs for 14 princesses. Some - like Rapunzel and The Little Mermaid - you know. Others - like the Princess Who Wanted to Solve Riddles (a Russian tale) - you most likely don't. And maybe in another post, I'll take you through a few more. But to close, I'd like to settle on Scheherazade, the heroine of the frame story of One Thousand and One Nights who must read to her husband every night to coax him into not killing her and letting her live to see another day. I've used Scheherazade (like in One Thousand and One Nights) as a frame story for Royal Fables, and it's through her reading that each of the princesses in the show come to life to tell their hidden stories. The song below is the finale - "Remember Me" - when Scheherazade, like all the princesses who came before her, reveals what's going on beneath the surface. What she really thinks and feels. And even she, the strongest of all the princesses, must remove her mask and show her true self. Take a listen to Ursula Seymour sing this beautiful closing ballad.
OK. That's all for now. But stay tuned, and I'll be sure share some more videos from the workshop - with some backstory to how I arrived at the songs. Hope to see you back here soon!
So it's been a hectic beginning of 2014 to say the absolute least. In February, Libra Theater Company had its third Songs You Should Know concert - at the amazing 54 Below. We had a fantastic line-up of new work by great writers like Amanda Green, Pasek & Paul, and (one of my favorites) Katie Thompson. AND, I was thrilled to have a couple of Amy and my songs from Unbound included in the show. Especially thrilling to have one of the songs ("Rising Fire") sung by Lilli Cooper - of Spring Awakening fame who's currently killing it in Atlantic Theater Company's revival of The Threepenny Opera. (OK, no more work plugs, I promise.)
Even more exciting, this month I just wrapped up a two-week workshop of my new song and dance cycle Royal Fables at NYU. I couldn't have been more grateful for this opportunity. I definitely learned a lot about the show, thanks especially to director/choreographer Megan Mekjian, music director Jeremy Franze, and the bang-up cast. You'll be seeing more of Royal Fables very soon, so keep on the look-out.
So here I am, my crazy few months of 2014 over. I have downtime that I'm not sure what to do with (except keep working on those new pages of Unbound that I've been promising my writing partner). But I'm sure I'm going to be swamped again soon...
So over the Thanksgiving weekend (which was great - made some pretty fantastic stuff despite slicing my thumb open) my lovely computer decided it was time to get a virus. Crisis was averted, and after many different options, I was able to reset to factory settings. And I thought, "You know, this won't be a problem. I've backed up all my files, so I just have to go through the hassle of reinstalling some software."
Couldn't have been more wrong.
There was one set of files I hadn't backed up. All of my Finale music files. Fortunately, I have PDFs of everything saved, but that still means hours upon hours of work notating things again. Oh well... Guess this gives me an excuse to revisit things and make sure everything's perfect, right?
First of all, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving - albeit one day in advance. My wife and I are having two Thanksgivings this year. Last weekend with my family in PA and now this weekend with hers out on Long Island. Two turkeys? What more could you ask for?
I've also been working like crazy on my song cycle Royal Fables. I've finished eight songs for the show to date, each one focusing on a different fairy tale princess. It's been good so far. I've got an angsty Sleeping Beauty, a seductive Little Mermaid, and a guilt-ridden Beauty - plus a couple more obscure ones. (Anyone remember Rose-Red?) Now I'm onto the Princess and the Pea. She's giving me a little trouble. But it's gonna happen.
Well, Happy Thanksgiving to all. Eat well, travel safel and spend some quality time with the people you love!
Right now, I'm up in Boston for the wedding of one of my best friends. I'm very happy to be here and to be in her wedding, but I gotta tell you... it is COLD! I did not bring enough warm clothing for this trip, and my wife and I are frozen...
Frozen... hmm... That feels like a segue...
A week or so ago, I saw an advance screening of the new Disney movie Frozen. And if you have any affinity for Disney, fun, good storytelling, or just smiling in general, you should probably see it. It is the best overall movie that Disney has put out in awhile. The characters are incredibly well written. The story - despite having little to nothing to do with its inspiration (Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen") - is tight and engaging and not what you expect it to be. And while I really didn't like about half the songs in the score (most of which unfortunately belong to the main character), the other half are brilliant. And the big song from the movie - "Let It Go" - is a shoe in for the Oscar this year. Demi Lovato has a cover out right now if you really want to listen, and even her version is damn good.
Guys! Guys. I understand your predicament. You live in NYC. You're looking at your calendar for next week, and there's a big, gaping hole in your schedule next Wednesday night. And you don't know what to do with yourself. Well, if this sounds like you, I HAVE A SOLUTION!
Next Wednesday night at 9pm, my writing partner Amy Molewski and I will be performing an hour-long showcase of our work at Sidewalk Cafe in the East Village (94 Avenue A at East 6th Street). And you should absolutely be there. I promise you that it'll be fun. There may be no Broadway stars involved. But it's great music - some of which has never been performed live in public before - like this great little number from Amy and my musical Unbound.
We'll be showcasing a lot of stuff from Unbound. But we'll also be playing a bit of stuff that we've been working on independently. There may even be a Jack White cover... (And to anyone who knows me personally, you know that's going to be either unexpectedly awesome or laughable and hilarious.)
So I hope you'll be there. 11/6. 9pm. Sidewalk Cafe. It's low-key. It's fun. There's no cover. And best of all, you'll be showing support for a new music theater and songwriting team that's going to be taking this city by storm very, very soon.
Phew... Fall has been busy this year. I haven't even had a chance to plan out my Halloween costume. I'm resisting the urge to fall back on my Indiana Jones standby, but I mean - come on - who doesn't want to be Indiana Jones at least one night out of the entire year.
That said, it's been a good kind of busy. This Sunday, Libra Theater Company presented a new music theater piece by Rob Rokicki called Monstersongs at (le) poisson rouge. It's less music theater when you look at it. More rock concert meets graphic novel. It takes a humanizing look at classic monsters through some awesome rock-infused music, all accompanied by illustrations by the amazing Dave O'Neill (you might know some of his children's books). Video from Libra's concert is coming soon, but in the meantime, check out the show website at www.monstersongs.net to see some of the songs and illustrations from the show. I'm torn between the mummy and Medusa as my favorites. Tough.
I've also been pretty busy with writing. My writing partner Amy and I just had a small reading of our musical Unbound earlier this month with a great cast and a small invited audience. We had some good feedback, and now we're right back into doing rewrites based on what we learned. Looking forward to plowing through these revisions and seeing what comes out on the other side.
We've also been preparing for our first public presentation of Unbound music, coming up on Wednesday, November 6th at Sidewalk Cafe in the East Village (94 Avenue A). Please feel free to come by! I'd love to see plenty of supportive, interested faces there! The show starts promptly at 9pm, and we'll be playing for an hour - showcasing Unbound stuff alongside a cover or two and some of our solo work just to shake things up. There's no cover, and it's a fun, low-key venue - so it should be a pretty good time. You can get some more info at the Facebook Event page, if you want.
All right. Back to work.
It's my birthday, y'all! (I don't know why I just said "y'all," but it seemed appropriate.) I've already gotten so many great birthday greetings, and I couldn't be more grateful for the amazing people in my life.
So on your birthday, you get a birthday wish, right? Well, I'm going to make it now. My wish is...
...for you to listen to my new song!
Yes, and you can grant my wish in just two minutes. I've been working on so many projects lately - at Atlantic, at Libra, and on my own. But one of the ones I'm most excited about is a new dance and folk driven theater piece I'm developing called Royal Fables. It takes a new look at classic fairy tale princesses from Beauty to Cinderella to Scheherezade. There's still a lot of work to do, but - thanks to the performance stylings of Amy Molewski - I've got my first demo from the show. Please take a listen!
And if you're so inclined, drop me a line or comment and let me know what you think, share the song, or follow Amy and I on SoundCloud. We've got some exciting stuff coming up!
A theater artist and arts administrator trying to stay connected...