Back in the big time

This week, a respite from the intricate inspection of other people’s musicals, because I’ve one of my own coming up. The Things We Do For Love is a cabaret show of eighteen songs from my trunk, playing May 25 at The Duplex in New York and June 13 at The Gardenia in Los Angeles. The show sold out at The Duplex five years ago, and now five new performers join Steven Bidwell on the intimate stage, again directed by Justin Boccitto.

Here’s what’s highly unusual: the performers are all on tour with Forty-Second Street, traveling from city to city, across the country. Only when they’re near enough to me do I get to work with them. In a way, The Things We Do For Love is on a national tour, hitching a ride on a show five times its size, directed by its librettist Mark Bramble and choreographed by current Tony-nominee Randy Skinner. A few nights ago, I saw their show and it’s pretty fantastic. The leading lady, Kaitlin Lawrence, is funny and delicious and already I feel blessed to have her talents turned to my numbers. Wacky as hell in the roles based on Betty Comden and Adolph Green are Britte Steele and Steven Bidwell, and I’m very excited to see their comic chops on my joke-filled ditties. Britte gets to premiere I Wouldn’t Wish That On a Dog – the one change from the 2011 incarnation – and it’ll be fun to see how its first-ever audience receives it.

The other seventeen songs are proven applause-getters. The proof’s in the reception our Duplex shows got five years ago, and also all but a few of the numbers were heard in other musicals and revues of mine. So, when I tell you, confidently, that audiences love them, that isn’t a boast or brag. Just the facts, ma’am.

My last few posts here have ended with a tiny plug. It hardly seems out of line to promote one’s own shows on one’s own blog. But, last week, some Sondheim-firsters cried foul, as some Steve-Adores tend to do. I’d seen a bunch of comedy songs play in a 2,750 seat house and receive barely a chuckle. Using an asterisk, which used to be universally accepted as indicative of humor, I linked my weekly “humble” plug with my report on how such beloved (?) comic show tunes as This Week Americans and What Do We Do We Fly had fizzled. That got a blogger to carp that my 1100-word piece on Do I Hear a Waltz was all an excuse to promote The Things We Do For Love. So, let’s uncouple two concepts: Do I Hear a Waltz, lyrics by Sondheim, music by Richard Rodgers, book by Arthur Laurents, is a rarely-performed chamber musical with a lot of comedy songs that – last week, at least – didn’t quite land. Totally unrelated to that, you can hear more than a dozen comedy songs that people have laughed hysterically at this month and next at my cabaret show, The Things We Do For Love. There you go: Just the facts.

Of course, some of my songs have have longer histories than others. Brady Miller may (or may not) propose to Britte Steele in a duet that wowed in one of those Bound For Broadway concerts, the Noel Katz night at the Donnell Library, Musical Writers Playground’s half-hour presentation of The Company of Women, and countless cabarets in London by A Stage Kindly.

But when Stephanie Brooks regales us about the true purpose of a ski trip, that’s a song that’s only been heard in The Things We Do For Love. It was written for an early draft of The Company of Women, but we found that the character singing it wasn’t necessary to the plot, so her and her song were cut. So, it’s particularly pleasurable to me to see the tune find a home after all these years.

And if I get nostalgic watching Steven Bidwell and Tommy Joscelyn doing Why Do I Do What I Do, it’s because this particular number sparked the whole idea for the show. Some years ago, I was asked to put up a song of mine at a benefit. I can’t recall why I thought of this two-man quodlibet from The Love Contract, but thought of Steven, I think, because of his resemblance to the original performer. Steven and Jayson Kerr knocked ‘em dead at the benefit, and, soon after that Steven found himself running a monthly concert series at a theatre district bar. He’d feature a different songwriter or theme each time, and singing my duet gave him the idea to devote a night to Noel Katz material.

And you know what I said? No. Don’t do it.

This was a boisterous and noisy bar, and, for many patrons, the live singing was just background music. I knew, from my experiences playing in bars, and the successes of Spilt Milk and Lunatics & Lovers, that my songs go over best in venues where listeners can concentrate on the lyrics. Steven’s bar wasn’t such a conducive environment and I told him so.

This demurral gave him an idea: What if he produced a show of my songs in a cabaret in Greenwich Village, the type of place where ears are fully open? Well, that’s what he did and that’s what he’s doing again. It’s very gratifying to get my work in front of new ears, acted by new singers. One of the 2011 players, Stephen Mitchell Brown, went on to appear on Broadway so if you catch the current cast perhaps you can say you saw them before their Broadway debut. Also, catch them in Forty-Second Street: They’re really good in that, too.



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