No need to worry about the health of musical theater if Bound for Broadway is any evidence.
By Joel Benjamin
October 7, 2013
Despite all the grumbling about the dearth of new musical theater works there are now a number of places where musicals can be workshopped en route to professional productions. The Broadway Close Up – Bound for Broadway series at the Kaufman Center’s Merkin Concert Hall has, for fourteen years, presented selections from new shows, some of which—See Rock City, The Drowsy Chaperone and Avenue Q—went on to fame and fortune.
The evening was emceed by the terrific Liz Callaway who was a relaxed, witty host, joking as she entered that they hadn’t supplied entrance music. She extolled the Bound for Broadway series and reminisced about previous shows before bringing on the creators of Nine Wives, Dan Elish (book & lyrics) and Douglas J. Cohen (music & lyrics).
Adam Kantor and Sarah Stiles sang two songs from Nine Wives accompanied by Fred Lassen on the piano. The duet “She’s My Wife” examines the different points of view of each person, he prematurely imagining being married to her and she resisting his advances. She also sang “It’s Only a First Date,” a wistful what-might-have-been as she reconsidered his effusive proposal. Elish and Cohen captured the petty anguish and semi-desperate need to match up.
Drive by Andy Monroe takes place entirely in the front seat of a car. In the title number the character played by Tom Stuart sings about driving as a metaphor for escape, something addicting like a drug. The second song, “A Really Nice Guy,” is about two virgins, sung by James Cochran and Courtney Shaw who fail to hit it off sexually, complicated by the fact that the young man realizes he is gay! Mr. Monroe handles this with adroit twists of the lyrics that keep the problematic relationship modern yet not clichéd. The energetic accompanist was the composer, himself.
Another single show written by a single artist was the third selection, “My Life Is a Musical” by Adam Overett. The conceit here is that, for the main character, life is a musical with songs bursting out at the drop of a hat. The title song here was sung by a small chorus led by Howie Michael Smith, accompanied by Matt Castle, in which this main character, a CPA ironically says that he actually hates musicals so he is continually bothered by the turn his life has taken. One of the evening’s touching moments was “Sing to Me,” a lovely take on love performed by Mr. Smith, Sarah Stiles, Jennifer Blood, KJ Hippensteel and Jason Michael Snow.
“The Legend of New York,” book and lyrics by Ryan Cunningham, music by Joshua Salzman, takes place in 1977 New York City which is portrayed as a Sodom and Gomorrah with a focus on Studio 54 as the center of the action. It was a bit like a modern variation on “The Horn Blows a Midnight” in which the main character is forced to watch NYC being destroyed. His moral dilemma: should he leave before the City is destroyed or should he stay. “Heavenly House on a Hill,” sung by Kevin Massey explores this perplexing problem, while “Cloud 54,” an ode to Studio 54, sung by a zestily powerful F. Michael Haynie extolled its hedonistic virtues. Matt Castle provided bouncy accompaniment.
The final musical represented was Leaving Home with book and lyrics by Sean Hartley, the artistic director of Bound for Broadway and music by Sam Davis. According to the creators, Leaving Home had it origins in an odd combination of the Persephone legend and the Three Little Pigs. Edward Hibbert sang “Love and Real Estate” which conflated sex and apartment searches with lots of naughty double entendres. Liz Callaway sang “The Perfect Guy,” a wide-eyed, lovely modern romantic song, the kind she sings so well. Sam Davis played the piano.
This evening proved that there’s life in this great American art form. And, not one of the shows was based on a film! There might have been more representation from female writers or composers of color, but the overall effect was encouraging.
The next Broadway Close Up will be on Monday, October 28th featuring “A Party with Amanda Green.”
Broadway Close Up – Bound for Broadway XIV
The Kaufman Center – Merkin Concert Hall
129 West 67th St. (between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave.)
New York, NY
Tickets and Information on Upcoming Events: 212-501-3330 or www.KaufmanMusicCenter.org/MCH