Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Closing Night Party

The Red Team had its final reading last night. As we had Triple Mousse Cake from Porto's for Kellen's birthday, someone mentioned it felt like a closing night party!

Each of the three mini-musicals had done absolutely wonders the last 10 days after the Second Assessment -- and we all had very tight, lovely shows! "The Liar" went first and was an impressive 21 minutes so they (we all) have two days to make 6 minutes of cuts. It's so wonderful to "get" that show now -- it's really clear and sweet and I actually like the main character, "Melvin."

"In the Nick of Time" (formerly "Mamarama") came in at an amazing 16 minutes -- amazing because after the First Assessment it came in at 31! They basically cut their show in half, and ended up with such an original, fast-moving -- and ultimately very touching show! The last song, Nickety Nick, really moved me in its simplicity and lyric... it came at the perfect time in the show and was set up beautifully... I'm still so impressed with this show! Hillary, the lyricist, could not believe it was possible to cut it when it was 22 minutes, but her collaborators, married couple Darin and Tara, have been writing and producing children's musicals for years now, and they did a fine job of making a super-tight, edgy show.

Our show -- I never had so much fun! I, like Kellen, was worried that what we thought was funny to us was ONLY funny to us -- working so hard on something you don't know if you're perspective works correctly. Fortunately, Elise and Scott, who played all five parts, picked up the "timbre" of script right away. They played it for the comedy -- quick, madcap, melodrama -- that it was, as after two or three speeches into the first scene, I closed my book, relaxed and enjoyed the show.

Okay, that was an understatement -- IT WAS A HOOT and I was laughing my guts out! YAY! The show was out of our hands and into the hands of professionals -- and it's funny!!! I was knee-slapping at the very end... and fortunately, not just because we wrote it, but because it was a success.

We came in at a surprising 19:58 -- five minutes of cuts tonight and we're done.

Whew. It was a great Closing Night Party. Now we go into a different phase -- production. And as a writer -- well, we're basically consultants now. That's okay.

As Maureen says in her blog, gotta start thinking about next year.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Final Draft Assessment (for TIME)

Kellen BlairThe directors of the Academy will be singing/reading the Red Team's final draft tonight for time (we have to be at 15 minutes - last night we timed at 22-23 ourselves) -- holy shit, I AM EXHAUSTED. [But at least all the copies are made, we'll be there on time, and we have one last chance to make our final changes before script is locked this Thursday (May 24)].

WOW -- Not a lot of sleep, completely obsessed about this show and everything it entails -- from getting tickets, to writing every night, to getting gas money to go out to Santa Monica, to being fed all the time by our wonderful host, Myrna, to show night guests, to what the hell am I wearing, to Actors Nightmare dreams, to wondering if our new Cain will be able to sing a high Bb well, and wondering what the old Cain is... no, that's stopping right now.

And what May 23rd means: NO MORE LA-LA LAND FOR ME NOW. Time to grow up.

pspringsTomorrow is our lyricist Kellen's birthday -- he shares it with Ilia, and May 23rd has always been a big marker for me too. So it's completely appropros that I'm priviledged to meet and work with such a wunderkind as Kellen -- oh yes, did I mention that's he's brilliant, clever, kind, and incredibly funny? Life is good -- talk about a breath of fresh air.

The pictures are from our Palm Springs working (and mostly moving) weekend -- check out our working setup! Myrna was behind the camera most of the time -- avoiding get her pic taken!

Sunday, May 13, 2007


We found out today at the assessment that we may lose our Cain -- Christopher Carothers -- to another job. We're devastated, and I can barely contain myself. Do all writers/producers go through this disappointment when shit happens in the middle of a project? Because it's unbearable.

I did get to hear "See the Light" sung by him though. What an absolute joy.

Edited to add:

I've journaled, I've sent emails, I've shed many a... well, I've had my pouty day already. As heartbreaking as it all still is, we're meeting tonight to fix our show.

Edited even later to add:

I got the .mp3 of yesterday's assessment and his performance. The arrangement wasn't complete, some melodies have changed... but there it is. I will at least have this crazy .mp3 of the way it's supposed to be sung. Thanks, Christopher.

And our meeting tonight -- what a strong outline we have now! Very proud of my team.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"See the Light"

Coming into rehearsal tonight by myself, I ran into the tail end of the Performers Workshop last-day-of-class party and saw my man, Sylvin, who sang my song at the cabaret a few months back.

What a joy to see him! He kissed and hugged me and we were all smiles and at the moment it seemed like we were each the President of The Mutual Appreciation Society! I adore the man... and the fact that he's sung the role of Lt. Cable in South Pacific -- well, that's pretty dreamy, dontcha think?

Not that I want that same reaction exactly (MAUREEN and JEFFREY G!), I swear.

BTW, here's the last big number we're working on (power ballad time!) called "See the Light." The lyrics are so darn funny (Kellen, aka Genius Boy) but I'll just give you the music for right now. It still makes me a bit goose-bumpy because of the fellow who inspired it (I'll never tell -- not here anyway)... this only the first two "A" sections.

Hope you like it.

"See the Light"

Edited to add: Okay, okay, I'll be honest with myself. These ballad-y type of things remind me that YES, someday I DO want to be in love and be loved by the appropriate guy. There. I said it. Someday.

"Phobias and Fetishes"

First of all, here's the poster/info for the show(s). Don't let the spider or the foot scare you -- just CLICK ON PHOTO to read!

Wow, what a wild week it's been.

My collaborators and I went to Palm Springs to stay at Myrna's timeshare -- but she could only get into on Sunday. So we got there Saturday night, stayed in a hotel with our desktop PC, electronic keyboard and midi set-up, printer, one lap top, one roll-up piano, two beds and a lot of snacks. Then after what we jokingly call "sleeping together and snoring together" (of course the snoring was just ME), we checked out, had lunch, then finally got to the beautiful timeshare (that IMHO had way too many kids at it).

We set up all our gear again, as Myrna says: "At least we get to look outside AT the pool." At one point I felt like I was in college again: we were all in the same room, but working on all our separate chores. Kellen was on the couch on his laptop with the lyrics, Myrna was on the PC fixing the book, and I was sitting at the coffee table with a pair of headsets on and the roll-up piano trying to use a miserable motif all the composers had to use. (Gb-Ab-Bb-E-Db-G -- yikes!) But it was cool to work like that... at any time we could ask our collaborator a question and not call a meeting or a email or dial them up. Just holler. :)

[In any case, I highly recommend going off somewhere with your collaborators early in the process. No distractions, and there's nothing like a shared obsession to bond writing partners together like this! Although we all get away from each other if we needed it (especially Kellen had to get away from us yakkety girls), it was a great experience. I will almost demand it next time I start up another musical (ooh, did I just say that?!?)...]

Then we had to leave at 1:00 pm, no matter what, for the two-hour drive back to LA. Kellen drove, Myrna and he yakked, I snored some more. Then we hauled all that stuff back upstairs, Kell left because he had to work in the a.m. Myrna and I worked more until about 5:00 when we both napped, and then I drove her downtown to work at 7:00 am.

And we still had to get our 12 copies of the script/music in by 10:30 pm that night! Yikes! Our goal was to have a full, complete script with all the music (no lyrics standing alone), even if the songs themselves weren't completely realized (accompaniment done) but at least there would be a melody. So we reached that goal. But it nearly killed us -- all 94 pages worth -- and nearly gave Kellen a heart attack. Poor guy! And he had to film us (as he did the whole weekend) for the darn documentary -- I dropped Myrna off and he shot video of her running into the ANMT door at 10:21 pm. UGH. If we didn't get it in, we would have lost this whole next rehearsal period and had to wait for our final draft assessment... that would have been terrible.

I know we're going to be long for Saturday's assessment -- unfortunate too, because Kell and I weren't able to read the book before we got published. Drat. Oh well, next assessment. And then I made some dumb mistakes in not changing some dialogue and lyrics in the score... oh, the formatting tedious is so sometimes, I just want scream.

Oh wait, I did that -- scream. A lot. And swore a lot too and got pretty dang testy (at myself). Hopefully you won't see my bleeped-out ass all over that docu, but who knows...


In any case, last night we went to the first rehearsal we (the writers) were allowed to go to... and some songs were a joy to hear being sung. My favorite new one is "See the Light" that's still not finished (we'll be hear a lot of melody being plunked out on Saturday)...

Today I was feeling a bit melancholy as I knew it was time to let our "baby" go live in the actors. Which is great -- as I've said before, I'm tired of hearing myself hum this stuff. It so strange, we were sitting there, and I THINK they knew we were the "Naked Truth" writers... but we were barely acknowledged as such by them. That was really weird! I'm not used to that... when I'm in production, I want to say hello to everyone and know who the hell everyone is there and what they do and thank them for it. But it wasn't the case last night and it felt awkward not to be even the slightest noticed.

I can't say I didn't try though... except for one actress who slipped away before I could say hello, I did connect with all them for a moment. But I don't know if they know that I'm the composer and Myrna's the book writer. Because one girl asked me all the book questions, and Myrna was pointing out a few "key signature" mistakes to the music director... hey, two Filipino women yakking about different things, who's to know which "M" does music and which "M" does book.

In any case, I'll keep smiling and saying hello. Maybe at the end they'll notice that our work for them was good. I hope so.

BTW, I forgot how much energy it takes to be in production... and I find it's just as crazy when I'm on this side of it -- the writing side. I sleep and dream this 15-minute musical -- music/dialogue/lyrics run through me all day and night... and it's exhausting. And even though we've not reached our peak yet (we still have one more final draft) or gone into final rehearsals -- I'm already sad about it all ending. This collaboration process has been one of the biggest learning processes of my life... and I can't believe this particular one, with my main man, Kellen, and our "Keys Emata"... I can't believe it's gonna be over soon.


I will say it's been great yakking with my friends about coming to the show(s). I'm so proud of our little work, and so many folks are coming to see it. I'm not used to the idea yet that they're going to spend $25 a ticket to see anything I did... but I'm sure I'll get used to it! Jeff Marx is a big draw (the co-creator of the Tony award-winning "Avenue Q" -- he's a very funny and humble guy!) -- and although most of my friends and family don't know him or the show (yet!), they certainly know what a "Tony award-winner" is!

And then there's this documentary. Oh boy. It's following the young lyricist, Kellen -- and since I'm on his team, me and my Big Self (are in it a lot). Unfortunately, Little/Slim Self has not been seen for awhile, so I'm just going to have to eat it on this particular show (excuse the analogy!)....
In any case, if you're planning to come, do buy your tickets quickly as it always sells out and next week all kinds of PR is going out.

Oh, just got a bit of the nerves again!...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"Mama's Mantra"

We had our first assessment this past weekend, after hearing our actors sing and read ... what a joy to hear something you've created out of your head actually manifest and be interpreted through professionals!

The RED Team has three musicals, and all three went up -- happy to say we came in the closest to time (15 minutes), but of course, we didn't have all our songs done either. I unfortunately goofed with our lead, Cain -- I didn't think he was as much a tenor as he was, so I'm just hiking up his music up a third or a fourth. He'd auditioned with "Joanna" from Sweeney Todd (lovely tenor!) but did The Beast from Beauty and the Beast too (strong, strong baritone as well!), so I didn't even pay attention to range. My mistake. Such a gorgeous voice -- I gotta take advantage of it! Take a gander here:

Christopher singing "The Christmas Song"

I love me a man that sings! (Yes, Maureen, I KNOW he's married, that's not the point, the boy's got a voice! :)


After the actors left and commented on their roles (same five actors in all three shows), we proceeded with our two-hour/per show assessments. Not such a bad experience for us -- there were a lot of clarity issues re: story, but only for the better, and pretty good about the music and lyrics.

Did I ever mention the title of our show?

"Cain and Abel: The Naked Truth"

We've met about our restructuring, and "Mama's Mantra," the lullaby I tortured myself with earlier, has been cut. :( I teasingly tell our lyricist that that's the LAST TIME I ever write a piece before I get a lyric because it's too easy for them to "disappear"!

But it's true -- it slows the show down (which is comedy DEATH) and doesn't really pay off. Oh well. Hopefully I'll use it again somewhere, sometime.

Hope you like it.

"Mama's Mantra"