Confessions of a New Musical Theatre Junkie
When I was around 13-years old, my Dad would regularly stop at a record store on his way home from work and pick up an LP that happened to be on sale that week. By on sale, I mean $1 or less. This WAS my Dad – always willing to try new things – experience new things – revel in the “new-ness” of everything. He and I would then proceed to listen to the entire chosen album in our living room – in all its scratchy glory. Believe me, there was some very weird stuff that played on that needle – but we listened to everything. It is without a doubt one of the greatest memories I have of my father – and it brings me a lot of peace and joy to this day.
One day, he brought home the original cast recording of Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell. When people talk about watershed moments in their life, I think of this. Have you seen the back of this album? There is apparently some clown – wearing suspenders over a superman T-Shirt – who is allegedly supposed to be Jesus. What?? But then I listened – I mean, really listened to every word:
“When wilt thou save the people. Oh God of mercy when”
“Every bright description of the promised land meant you could reach it if you keep alert”
“We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land”
“Blind guides! Blind fools! The blood you spilt on you will fall”
“I’ll put a pebble in my shoe and watch me walk”
“On the willows there, we hung up our lives”
Wait…what? You could tell a story with music and lyrics? Why had I had not known this before? It was if I had been handed a gift – the gift of storytelling through a medium I would spend my life pursuing and championing at every turn. (To this day, I regard Mr. Schwartz as a tremendous influence on my life).
Flash forward many years: I am planning the events of a theatre company I founded based entirely on new writers. During one of those long rabbit-hole YouTube nights, I discovered “Run Away With Me” by Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk. There it was again – that old familiar feeling of discovering storytelling in song. It was perfect – lyrics that sat upon score in a near perfect way. I am certain I contributed to a great deal of “views” for that song that night, but I couldn’t get enough.
Let me be your ride out of town.
Let me be the place that you hide.
We can make our lives on the go.
Run away with me.
Texas in the summer is cool.
We’ll be on the road like Jack Kerouac
Sam, you’re ready. Let’s go.
Are you kidding me? This was the future of the American musical as far as I was concerned. As I would very quickly learn, this was only the beginning of a new generation of American Musical Theatre artists fusing their lives bravely into art. I would go on to work with many of these artists on various songs, projects and just shared experiences, but always felt grounded returning to what led me here from the beginning.
You may be wondering why I share all of this. What are these ramblings all about? It’s simple, really. Nothing complicated – just an easy idea that all of us can so frequently forget. We are here because we love what this business means – what this craft does for us – what this art makes us feel. I would suggest that the same things that brought us to this craft are the very things that will engage an audience to feel what you feel – to love what you love. Never doubt the impact of what you have to say.
I lost my Dad to cancer this very week in 2005. Just before he passed, he said to me, “you brought music into our house.” No, Dad, you did. You did.
(As a side note, I decided Dad’s Godspell story needed to be immortalized in song, so I asked my great friend and brilliant musical theatre composer, J. Sebastian Fabal, to tackle it – and did he ever. Below is the audio of the result – a song called “Godspell On Vinyl” – music and lyrics (and vocals) by J. Sebastian Fabal with Mark T. Evans on piano. I can only hope it brings you as much joy as it has brought me and my family.)