Let’s Get Together… Yeah Yeah Yeah
Since my last NMT post about the ins and outs of a good musical book, I’ve been thinking… where are the articles about dream pairings of composers/lyricists and amazing playwrights/book writers? After all, music and lyrics are only two-thirds of the puzzle.
Can’t think of any? Neither can I… So let’s remedy that. Below, you’ll find five kick-ass pairings sure to win any Tony Award. Now, I ask exactly three things when you read this:
- Readers: Get to know each of these writers – especially the playwrights. None have made it to Broadway (yet), but they’re some of the most exciting voices in theater today.
- Writers: Should you choose to collaborate, please ensure you set aside a 5% finder’s fee for me on all projects. I’m only sort of joking…
- Also to the writers: When you collaborate for the first time, please recreate the scene from “The Parent Trap” when Haley Mills(s) sings “Let’s Get Together.” It would make me smile. In fact, let’s revisit that bit of Disney gold.
OK, enough of that…
Joe Iconis and Bekah Brunstetter
This was a no-brainer. Joe Iconis – who I’m guessing most people reading this know – is funny. He creates hilarious circumstances for his characters with ease. He finds drama and humor in awkward moments. And he does all of it with this drive and edge that makes you just want to get up and jump like you’re in a mosh pit. (Cue me listening to his song “Michael in the Bathroom”…)
I couldn’t dream of a better match for Joe than Bekah Brunstetter. Bekah – who keeps an awesome blog – is every bit as funny as Joe. She’s got quirk and downright whimsical weirdness that makes me laugh every time I see one of her plays. But her defining characteristic is that she does quirky with a real edge. There’s always grit in a Brunstetter play, and that’s what makes her and Joe a perfect match.
Sara Montgomery and Nate Weida
There are few people today that I feel could go toe-to-toe with the likes of P. G. Wodehouse, Oscar Wilde, and A. A. Milne. One is Sara Montgomery. A couple years ago, I saw a production of her three-time NY Innovative Theatre Award-nominated play Weekend at an English Country Estate, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard. It was the perfect blend of humor, wit, and creative use of the English language. And I know that Sara’s working on a musical right now, but perhaps we could coerce her into starting another with…
Nate Weida. Nate’s been the darling of NYC’s Pipeline Theatre Company for the past year or so, between their production of his gibberish (yes… gibberish) folk opera Byuioo to their epic presentation last month of his epic piece I’s Twinkle – a three part epic based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Nate has a down-home folk feel to a lot of his music, but his lyrics – be they in English or gibberish – have a playfulness and inventive use of language about them. And his melodies make those lyrics just soar. If you don’t believe me, check out his tune “Freakish Thing” from I’s Twinkle: http://vimeo.com/52422219
Marco Ramirez and Blake Pfeil
I’ve been talking a lot about writers with a mastery of quirk and wit. But where are the unabashed, rough-and-tumble rock’n’roll writers? The Martin McDonaghs and David Mamets of the new generation? For me, the first one that came to mind: Marco Ramirez. Marco’s writing jumps off the page, onto the stage, and punches you in the gut. Sometimes quite literally, as with his play The Royale – inspired by the first Black man allowed to compete for the World Championship in boxing. And his TV writing credits on the likes of “Orange is the New Black” and “Sons of Anarchy” show that Marco’s not holding any punches. (See what I did there… Puns!)
Then, there’s Blake Pfeil. He’s got drive, power, emotion, and gut-punching realness. I know that’s not a lot of detail, but those words are all you need. He’s just great.
Kenny Finkle and Pete Mills
As that one classic musical says, “You gotta have heart.” No playwright has heart like Kenny Finkle. I remember the first time I read his play Indoor/Outdoor about the adventures of a housecat named Samantha. I had a smile plastered to my face the entire time. It was charming, sweet, and at times, truly beautiful. And I find that’s true of most of Kenny’s plays – from the more dramatic to the straight-up comedies. There’s always heart.
And heart is something that Pete Mills has in spades. His lyrics – especially his ballads – dig into your soul and pump you with pure joy, elation, sadness, anguish… whatever the moment calls for. And his melodies always seem to accompany that perfectly. I have to say I’m especially partial to the sweeping, soaring melodies of his songs like “The Lady Must Be Mad,” “Golden Boy,” and “Hang There, My Verse.” Music like his paired with Kenny’s book… Wow.
Pia Wilson and Rosser & Sohne
What’s always struck me about Pia Wilson is the deeper meaning under the surface of her writing. Her craft is beautiful. She’s got a unique knack for symbolism and metaphor. And there’s always a sense of yearning. A push and pull that not only drives the story but creates characters with such passion and fire that you can’t help but watch.
I got the same feeling when I first listened to Tim Rosser and Charlie Sohne’s The Boy Who Danced On Air. In spite of unconventional – and at times quite uncomfortable – subject matter, their songs were simply beautiful. Just like Pia, there’s a powerful sense of yearning in their writing, and I can’t help thinking this trio would create something amazing together.
What are your fantasy playwright/composer-lyricist collaborations?