- Beretta leaves Maryland over gun laws, heads for Tennessee
- Neal Boortz defends Hillary Clinton for representing child rapist
- House task force to recommend National Guard on border, faster deportations
- Top federal judge uses pizza to explain complex Obamacare situation
- Obama, Biden overhaul job training programs
- Drought-plagued Californians turn to paint to keep lawns green
- ISIL now forcing Iraqi shopkeepers to veil mannequins in Mosul
- 11 parents of Nigeria’s abducted girls die
- Genetic mapping triggers new hope on schizophrenia
- Turkish P.M. Erdogan won’t speak to Obama, but he’ll take calls from Biden
Musical theater workshop becomes a Broadway engine
Question of the Day
NEW YORK (AP) - In a room in a lower Manhattan skyscraper, a musical is being born, song by song.
Standing at a piano is an up-and-coming songwriting team, presenting a new tune called “Think of Cheese” from its fledgling show “Afterland,” which takes place outside post-apocalyptic Philadelphia. Composer and co-lyricist Benjamin Velez launches into a flamenco-flavored ditty.
Some two dozen fellow lyricists, playwrights and composers fill the seats, all hoping to join the list of musical heavyweights who have gone through this classroom process, including Alan Menken, Lynn Ahrens, Steve Flaherty, Maury Yeston, Tom Kitt, Brian Yorkey and Amanda Green.
The song over, it’s time for the young composers to face the music.
Hands go up in the class. One student complements the team on a song with spectacular music and clever lyrics but wonders who is making cheese in post-apocalyptic Philadelphia. Another wonders to whom exactly the song is being sung. Someone else wants to know what the song’s function is in the show. Still another hates the title.
Velez and Hathaway graciously take the criticism and sit down. There are five more songs to be presented on this day, including a tune about a 12-year-old science-obsessed girl in the 1950s trying to be cool, and a song sung by a woman who has found foot-fetish porn on her husband’s computer.
This class is part of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, and judging by its track record as a top-notch incubator of musicals, there’s a good chance that in a few years there will be a new Broadway show with a song about post-apocalyptic cheese.
“It gives writers something that is very hard to come by: an audience every week,” says “The Book of Mormon” co-writer Bobby Lopez, who for the last three years has helped moderate the advanced group with his wife, composer Kristen Anderson-Lopez, whom he met at the workshop.
Shows nurtured by the program include “A Chorus Line,” ”Little Shop of Horrors,” ”Nine,” ”Once On This Island,” ”Ragtime,” ”Avenue Q” and “Next To Normal.” Six musicals currently playing on Broadway were authored or co-authored by members of the BMI Workshop: “Aladdin,” ”Newsies,” ”The Book of Mormon,” ”Violet,” ”If/Then” and “Rocky.”
“We don’t tell people what to write or how to write or even what style to write in. But we do teach and talk a lot about how musicals are put together,” says writer and lyricist Patrick Cook, the program’s director, who is a former workshop student.
“We’re one of the only places that actually talks about the craft of musical theater and how it’s a different craft than almost every other art form,” he adds.
The BMI workshops started in 1961 and its three-year program goes from learning the basics of songwriting to the creation of full-length musicals. Seasoned veterans attend the advanced workshop to present ongoing projects. New songs from a fresh batch of composers will be presented Thursday at a showcase at the BMI’s home at 7 World Trade Center.
One early assignment is to write a song that is either a sad hello or a happy goodbye, which both turn out to be devilishly hard. “It forces people to write with some kind of subtext,” says Cook.
Cook should know: He first joined the workshop as a student in 1984. “I thought I knew everything. And after the first class, I went, ‘Oh, I don’t know very much, do I?’” he says, laughing.
TWT Video Picks
The president could pay the full price for ignoring Congress
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
- David Perdue defeats Jack Kingston in Georgia Republican Senate primary runoff
- D.C. appeals panel deals big blow to Obamacare subsidies
- 'Straight White Guy Festival' supposedly set for Ohio park
- BERMAN & MADYOON: An Iranian-Turkish reset
- Beretta moving to Tennessee over Maryland gun laws
- Pentagon team dispatched to Ukraine amid crisis with Russia
- Ron Paul: U.S. partly to blame for Malaysia Airlines disaster
- CARSON: Costco and the perils of mixing politics and business
- Gen. James Amos, Marine Corps commandant, slams Obama's handling of Iraq
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq