Tag Archives: broadway

Kickstart Now. Here. This.

As many of you who check in with this blog know, I spent most of the winter and early spring working with some of my favorite people on the Off-Broadway show, Now. Here. This. Though our run at the Vineyard Theatre ended back in April, there remained one big piece of unfinished business: a cast recording.

Well, that all changed today when we launched our Kickstarter campaign to fund the making of the Now. Here. This. original cast recording. Behold.

Larry Pressgrove on the keys

I had many favorite moments and days working on this show, but one of the top ones was our sitzprobe, which is where the cast sings through all of the music for the first time with the live band. It was an incredible experience listening to what Jeff Bowen had been walking around hearing in his head for months. An electric guitar, a mandolin, a drum, an upright bass. That first listening experience felt akin to staring at a Chuck Close canvas at the exact distance where you see the individual depth, color, and dimension of the image and the whole painting at the same time. It excited my senses and made me feel incredibly proud of my friend and his sonic vision. It also made me want to share his music with everyone I know. For now, however, I’m resigned to walking around like pre-sitzprobe Jeff, with the tunes in my head and not out in the world.

Those of you who saw the show know what I’m talking about. But for those of you that didn’t make it to NHT, this recording will offer you the opportunity to hear what you missed, to fall in love with the music, to marvel at talents of some really smart, funny and creative people, and to play the tracks you love wherever you are, letting the bars of music float out onto the street, through your headphones, and in the interior of your car (while you sing along, of course).

Being a part of this show and collaboration was a very special experience for all of us involved in the production, but now we need you to collaborate with us on getting the original cast recording made. Join the adventure and help us bring everyone into the Now. Here. This.

The Now. Here. This. band

Advertisements

Monday’s Watch, Listen, Read

Watch

“The very thing that makes you different in high school is the thing that makes you exceptional as an adult.” — Lin-Manuel Miranda

I’ve written about the “It Gets Better” videos before, but this video — created by (the awesome) Susan Blackwell, (the rock star) Hunter Bell and (Bird Bird II) Matt Vogel — deserves to be plugged because it addresses bullying across the spectrum, not just LGBT. Almost everyone who is different is bullied, verbally, physically, emotionally. Every teens deserves to have someone tell them it gets better. Also great about this video, it gently reminds adults to be proactive, to keep their eyes open, their ears and mouths ready to respond, and to listen.

Listen

I keep a list of the songs I write by, which was inspired by a writer-friend who keeps her soundtrack lists on her website (Update: They’re MIA on Catherine’s site now, but email her, if you’re curious). Every piece I write has a different soundtrack. When I’m on a writing binge I get stuck on one artist, whose songs I have memorized, and play them on repeat. After a while I don’t hear the music anymore, but there’s something about the rhythm and having a soundtrack by which to write, that’s important to me. I’ve been listening to a lot of Adele lately. This particular song, “Cold Shoulder,” works nicely with the play I’ve been working on about relationships, finding them, losing them, etc.

Read

Life Interrupted by Spalding Gray

“A man tells a story over and over so many times he becomes the story. In that way, he is immortal.” -Big Fish

Spalding Gray‘s name is scribbled all over my work notebooks from 2002-2004, but I did not know who he was or what he did. I never met him in person, but I will never forget his voice, with that thick, New England accent. I first talked to Spalding in 2002, when he would call the office where I interned to talk to my boss, who was a friend of his and had directed one of his monologues. My boss would always take Spalding’s calls with enthusiasm, happy to talk to him until work interrupted their convivial conversation. As the years went by, I noticed Spalding’s voice developed a heaviness to it that hadn’t been present before. He had had an accident. It was clear that he was depressed. He still called the office where I worked, but I began to take messages instead of connecting his call immediately. Sometimes, Gray talked to me beyond the scope of the message. I listened, not always certain if he was telling me a story with an ending or simply rambling till I found a way to beg off the call.

I remember passing newsstands when Spalding was missing, his face on the cover of the Post and the Daily News. A few months later, his face appeared on the covers again, when his body was pulled from the East River. This is when I discovered Spalding Gray. I borrowed his filmed monologues from my boss and watched them one after another. I read the transcripts. I was blown away by how one man, sitting at a desk with a single glass of water as a prop, could navigate an audience to places as far away as Cambodia and as close as New York City, piloted only by his words.

His last monologue, “Life Interrupted,” published posthumously, was unfinished. It was also one of his best. There’s a darkness, a light, a hope, a humor, a sadness, and a beauty to it that no other written work I have come across has ever captured quite so intimately. I can’t imagine how Spalding would have finished this monologue or if he would have at all. There’s something about an unfinished work; a sense of incompleteness, of restlessness; that allows a writer to continue living in our minds, giving us the freedom to compose an ending worthy of his singular voice.

Brief Encounter: Huge Cloudy Symbols of a High Romance

“I want to remember every minute, always, always to the end of my days.”

There are very few productions I’ve seen that make me gasp out loud or sit, wide-eyed in childlike wonderment. BRIEF ENCOUNTER is one of these plays. It engages the heart and mind. It’s a vintage love letter and a Vaudevillian magic trick all rolled into one. It’s a step back in time.

BRIEF ENCOUNTER comes to Broadway* with a British pedigree, thanks to director Emma Rice and the Kneehigh Theatre Company of Cornwall, England, who conceived and created the production. The show is an adaptation of the film (of the same name, directed by David Lean) and based on Noel Coward’s short one-act play, “Still Life.” To recap: Noel Cowards short play begets Noel Coward’s movie begets full-length stage production … with music by Noel Coward.

Fun side note: BRIEF ENCOUNTER (the film) was also the inspiration for Billy Wilder’s movie, THE APARTMENT, which became the musical PROMISES, PROMISES, currently in revival on Broadway.

The most endearing quality about this production is its utter uniqueness. You won’t see anything else like this on Broadway. It’s vibrant, beautiful, and smart. There are amazing low-but-feel-high-tech special effects that lend a Michel Gondry/Spike Jonze/Jean-Pierre Jeunet quality to the production, which give it a whimsical, yet cinematic feel. The production’s cast perform duties as special effects artists and musicians, in addition to their parts in the production. No one really has a supporting role in BRIEF ENCOUNTER as each actor is so completely entrenched in their role, and their attention to detail is such that, you feel equally invested in every character’s story. Get swept away in the romance, the fun, and the wonderment. You will not be disappointed in this theatrical love letter.

Stick around after the show because the company continues to charm you with their musical talents and good humor by performing songs (like “Don’t Stop Believing”) in the back of the theatre and dancing with the audience. It’s a convivial setting and an extra treat for the audience.

Make sure to check out Kneehigh Theatre’s website to get a jump on future productions (ed. I’m particularly excited about THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG and hope it comes to the U.S.)

And, if you are in New York, their next production, an adaptation of THE RED SHOES, will be at St. Ann’s Warehouse this winter. Do. not. miss. it.

*Full disclosure: I originally saw BRIEF ENCOUNTER last winter, when the company brought their stateside tour to St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn.