The hidden gems of musical theater.

Hillary and I will be heading off to Joe's Pub this coming Wednesday to see Matt Doyle perform! While I would be happy to hear him singing from a Chinese take-out menu or my communication theories textbook, I'm even more thrilled that his show is featuring the work of several up-and-coming composers, including Kerrigan & Lowdermilk, Ryan Scott Oliver, Joe Iconis, Paul Scott Goodman, Chris Miller & Nathan Tysen, Will Van Dyke, Drew Gasparini, and more.

While I can't say that I've heard of all of these talented people, I could not be more excited to hear their work performed. Only in the past year have I really begun to take the time to discover some of the lesser-known, but just as important, components of the musical theater world. It definitely takes an investment of time and energy to really listen to the lyrics of something you've never heard before, especially when the song may not necessarily be in the context of an entire show. Even if a song stands alone, though, I find that it often captures the most intriguing part of what musical theater is in the first place - isolating a single moment, and expressing it in real, often humorous, and sometimes painful lyrics.

It helps that several of my favorite actors are attached to the projects of composers like Ryan Scott Oliver and Kerrigan & Lowdermilk. Although I did not attend the various Rated RSO concerts held over the past year, videos of the talented Matt Cavenaugh singing "Caralee" and Andrew Kober and Kacie Sheik singing "Hemming and Hawing" are what pulled me into RSO's work in the first place. And it's quite fitting for Matt Doyle to hold a concert featuring such songs, since he has been involved with so many of these different projects that it's his voice I've heard singing them for the first time.

In preparation for what is sure to be another incredible night at Joe's Pub, I thought I'd take the time to discuss just a few songs that you may or may not have heard of, but are sure to stick with you, just as they have stuck with me.

1. Ewalt and Walker's "Fat Old Men" - Part of a project entitled "Separate: Battle Songs of Youth," which I believe is based on the coming-of-age novel "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles. A beautiful song that fits Mr. Doyle's voice perfectly. I also love the image of the "fat old men on Capital Hill/with their own agendas, spinning around."

2. Scott Alan's "Never Neverland" - Having first heard it on the album "Dreaming Wide Awake," sung by Stephanie J. Block, I was privileged to hear Krystina Alabado, of the Spring Awakening national tour, add her interpretation and strong voice to the song at the cast's cabaret last summer in Washington DC. It reflects Peter Pan's desire to never grow up in all of us, and how we can retain our childhood even when we are grown.

3. Carner & Gregor's "After Hours" - A recent discovery via YouTube, I haven't been able to stop listening to Jay A. Johnson's gorgeous and somewhat vulnerable rendition. It takes a snapshot of the world and all the various people who inhabit it and cross paths at unexpected times. "And I can sleep tomorrow/So much to see tonight" resonates loudly in my life as well.

4. Ryan Scott Oliver's "The Ballad of Sara Berry" - Several of Mr. Oliver's songs differ from his peers in that they are absolutely rockin', and "Sara Berry" is certainly a standout. The lyrics are beyond clever, and Lindsay Mendez, soon to be seen on Broadway in "Everyday Rapture," uses her phenomenal voice to give an intensely awesome performance.

5. Kerrigan & Lowdermilk's "My Party Dress" - A perfect example of a song performed as a solo number, Celia Keenan-Bolger does a fantastic job of creating a full-fledged character in her four minutes on stage.

Most likely, those of you reading our blog have heard of at least a few of these composers, but if you haven't, I'd encourage you to take the time to sit down and give them each a listen. Some of the best and most relevant work in the world of musical theater takes a little digging to find, but the reward at the end is more than worth the search.


Sam Carner said...

Your writing is beautiful. Looking forward to reading more of your posts!

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