I call Things We Do For Love this thing of ours because it’s truly the result of eight hysterical knuckle-heads’ magnificent creativity and talent. These artists all showed up at 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning for rehearsal, made time for an extra rehearsal Wednesday scheduled just two days earlier, and also endured a thirteen-hour day of rehearsal without grumbling. They’re all intent on getting it right, whatever it is: strenuous dance moves, a cappella tri-tones, subtle and not-so-subtle hip thrusts, and razor-sharp comic timing.
The cast has reacted to my songs as if they’ve been given a gold mine of material. Of course, I take that as a huge compliment. But, like every working actor in New York, they’re looking for songs that show off their sense of humor, and yet aren’t done too often. Sure, they could audition with Larry O’Keefe’s Sensitive Song, which I think is funnier than anything I’ve ever written, but chances are the people behind the table have heard that one before. That day. That hour.
While most auditions involve one song, in a cabaret act, the performer gets several, and so can show versatility. When I say Stephen Mitchell Brown has an amazing range, I’m not talking about the more than two octaves I’ve heard him sing since meeting him at our auditions: The man can be romantic, in either a contemporary duet or a plaintive waltz, but he can also be wildly funny. Our auditions were also my first time meeting irrepressible Rebecca Kubaska, who probably had no idea she’d be asked to do so many sexy things in one hour-long show. Whether as the hunter or the hunted, she’s delightful, gamin and game; and then she knocks a love duet out of the park. The rest of the cast I knew before, that doesn’t mean they didn’t surprise me with the depth of their abilities. I knew of Vanessa Dunleavy‘s deliciously playful knack for being sexy but not her intense soulfulness. Christine de Frece is more than a lovable goof-ball: she’s got dramatic fire that’s conveyed in crescendos and soprano strength, a paradigm of acting in song. There’s a little less breadth to the types of things Brad Siebeking and Steven Bidwell do in the show, but that’s because, in one hour, we didn’t have time to exhibit the wide array of emotional colors they can portray. Yet Brad adeptly plays insecure, angry and smarmy, which are very different things even if they’re all abundantly funny. Steven graciously agreed to have one of his solos cut, when we were running long and the poignancy of his ebullient optimism seemed out of place amidst the wacky string of numbers that start the show. I was touched by the way he took one for the team, but also was always touched by the brilliant way he was doing the song.
(That’s me singing it. Steven did it much better.)
Musical theatre writers out there, I’ve a suggestion for you: Use these people. They’re industrious, prodigious and multi-faceted. And do yourself a favor and hitch your wagon to the rising star of director/choreographer Justin Boccitto. I’m thrilled to be working on another project with him and Christine de Frece over the next month. Also, in coming weeks, I’ll try to relate some of the many things I learned from working on this thing of ours, Things We Do For Love.