I have a wife

If you were to ask me what’s the best thing I’ve ever done, to help myself with this sisyphean career in musical comedy, I’d unhesitatingly say, “Marry Joy Dewing.”

I’m not sure what you, dear reader, can do with this information.  You can’t marry Joy Dewing; I already have.  I suppose you can wait until I’m dead, and then make your move. But now I’ve violated one of the first rules of blogging: Never invite your readership to kill you.

Today is her birthday, but we’re rather more focused on an upcoming birth day, when Joy brings our first child into the world.  But, again, what use is this information to you?

Professionally, it’s a very good idea to get Joy to cast your show.  Her company, Clemmons Dewing Casting, had three shows simultaneously playing on Broadway last season, but is also particularly adept and experienced at casting musicals in earlier stages of development.  The producer of one of my shows has hired her repeatedly, and that’s no quid pro quo: it’s simply because she’s the best casting director around.  And those auditioning actors love her: You rarely hear about actors having a positive experience of casting directors, yet Joy appears to be their favorite.

Surprisingly, when I had a show to cast, Joy handed off the project to a colleague in her office who was more adept at casting the particular kind of show I was doing.  And, before I knew it, we had ten amazing performers, including two Tony nominees, folks I idolized and long wanted to work with.  The dream came true.

In recent days, I found myself telling about a letter she wrote me, early in our relationship, describing a triumphant oral presentation in a college music theory class.  Surrounded by a bunch of hoity-toity classical music snobs, she won the class over, demonstrating various complex compositional techniques playing examples from Broadway musicals.  When I read the letter, I thought to myself that if any of my friends read it, they’d predict this was the woman I’d someday marry.

But the news you can use is, by all means, get to know various compositional techniques.  And here’s the shocker: even if you’re not the composer.  I understand that a lot of people find music complicated and mysterious, but, if you’re in any aspect of the musical theatre creation business, there are things you should know, terms you should be familiar with.  Joy knew them, and she’s not a songwriter.  Similarly, at the beginning of Clement Wood’s rhyming dictionary, there’s a long description of poetic forms, and various devices and rhyme schemes. Even if you’re not the lyricist, you should assimilate that.

Have I made it seem like we’re two musical theatre wonks, endlessly dissecting shows? That’s hardly the case, but I’m trying to stick to the subject here. Which is not “how wonderful Joy is.” Although, over the years, her beauty, talent and general way-of-dealing-with-the-world have inspired many a song. One of my favorite songwriting experiences was coming up with special material for her cabaret act, a song full of specific biographical details, I Can Do This. Lyricists often endeavor to use specifics. Fiction is harder than non, and Joy at various ages had done interesting things I could incorporate into the song.

And, of course, no other wife in the world would have agreed to a musical wedding. For the song for my Best Man, I was able to incorporate all sorts of things that have occurred over our three decades of friendship. Joy and I worked on our (sung-through) Vows together, naturally, as well as the lyric to How Could They Have Missed?  I wrote songs for the bridesmaids, the 4-year-old flower girl, all our parents; the hardest one to write was the one for Joy.  The sentiment had to be just right, for the bride’s statement would be the climax of the show.  My first three songs were rejected – they were complex, rambling art-songy things. With the time pressure on, inspired by the Gospel timbres in her voice, I came up with something very simple, This Man Loves Me, and she brought down the house.

Now seems the proper time for a reminder that Our Wedding: The Musical has a CD available for sale at www.WeddingMusical.com.  As it’s not a show that can ever be revived, the only way you can experience it is through the live original cast album, which demonstrates many of the song- and show-writing principles I yammer on about here.  Best of all, you get to hear Joy’s voice.

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2 Responses to I have a wife

  1. Noel! What delight to stumble upon your blog. YAY!! Can I subscribe? What great news about a baby on the way!! Congratulations! You and Joy will make such fabulous parents. I remember you showed me the pink house where you were born in the Village. The Katz family keeps NYC hummin’! Sending LOVE, Best Wishes, and looking forward to more good news! Emily

  2. Lisa says:

    Noel, so glad you posted about your blog’s b-day on Facebook. How wonderful to read it – and to see this news about your baby on the way. Congratulations!!

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