Searching for Somewhere
Posted by Chris Coleman | 06 February 2013
A few weeks ago I was given the fun task of flying to New York to begin the casting process for Somewhere in Time, the world premiere musical we'll be bringing to Portland this spring. It's always an adventure to audition performers for musicals. There are worse jobs than listening to beautiful singers all day long! But this trip also provided my first opportunity to spend a healthy chunk of time in the room with the show's creative team.
Ken Davenport is the driving force behind the project. Ken is a commercial producer working in New York and we've had a couple of conversations over the years, both about projects he was working on and about life at PCS. When we produced Storm Large's show, Crazy Enough, I convinced Ken to send his associate Jane Caplow out to see it. So when Jane sent me the early materials for Somewhere in Time, I was curious enough to pay attention. Ken discussed his desire to find a regional theater to launch the piece, with the hope that it might move on to New York the following season. After several conversations we decided to move forward with launching the piece at PCS.
It was a gas to watch the composer (Doug Katsaros, seated at the piano) and the lyricist (Amanda Yesnowitz, with her back to us) working on a new number for the show during one of our breaks. They had three different melodies and lyrics for only two of them. Amanda was finding the words out of the air as she played around with the possibilities the melody was bringing to the surface. On another break, Doug mentioned that he had been in a band prior to his work in the musical theater world. When I Googled him later, I was a little embarassed to realize that this completely unpretentious guy sitting next to me had worked withthe likes of B.B. King, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Sinead O'Connor, Frank Sinatra and a host of others. Gulp.
Amanda is no slouch herself, having been the very first artist to win the Jonathan Larson Award (given in honor of the creator of the musical Rent) for a composer or lyricist who shows exceptional promise in the musical theater world. She has also collaborated with some of the most important composers working in the musical theater world today, annnnnnnnnnnd is a nationally ranked cross word puzzle solver. So there.
I had seen the work of Scott Schwartz, the play's director, in his deliciously outrageous off-Broadway production of Batboy: The Musical (which I loved so much that we subsequently produced it here at PCS in 2003). Scott has worked all over the country, with numerous productions on and off Broadway. He's also won a bunch of awards and, yes, he is the son of Steven (Godspell, Pippin, Wicked) and Carol Schwartz.
One of the benefits of being in New York for casting is, of course, the opportunity to see shows. I have long loved Clifford Odets' story about a young Italian guy who is torn between his love for music and the violin, and his skills as a prizefighter. But I had never seen an actual production. Bart Scherr's production at Lincoln Center was bold and handsome and brought the piece to vivid life. Though it still made me want to do it at PCS.
I also loved Water by the Spoonful at Second Stage. This beautiful new play by Quiara Alegria Hudes won the Pulitzer Prize this past year. We read it as a prospect for the season, and while I enjoyed it I couldn't quite imagine how it would play onstage or if it would be too depressing (part of the subject matter deals with recovering crack addicts). So seeing it in Davis McCallum's splendid production was a revelation. Colorful, human, funny and heartbreaking - it felt real. The performances felt authentic and crackling. And ultimately it is about the tiny steps we take toward complete human-ness.
The new Christopher Durang play at Lincoln Center, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, was hysterical and thought provoking. David Hyde Pierce was excellent and Billy Magnussen was effortlessly side splitting. Sigourney Weaver looked fantastic.
I was struck by this poster about an upcoming solo show about Ann Richards, the former Democratic Governor of Texas (I think I forgot that they used to elect Democrats).
I was trepidatious about seeing the musical Once. I so loved the film that it is based on, but it is so quiet and subtle that I was having a hard time imagining how adapting it for the stage would amplify the experience. But the production was so imaginatively (and simply) directed and acted that I found myself rapt from beginning to end. I loved every single second of it.
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