2016 ASCAP/DreamWorks MUSICAL THEATRE WORKSHOP Pt II
BY RYAN M. LUÉVANO
Here is a recap of the concluding evenings at the 2016 ASACAP/DreamWorks Musical Theatre Workshop.
Night No. 2–February 17, 2016
Mecchi is an American writer for television, movies, newspapers, and Broadway. She has worked on Herb Caen’s books, and is the co-screenwriter of Disney animated movies such as The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules. With co-author Roger Allers, she received a 1998 Tony nomination for writing the book for The Lion King. Irene wrote the teleplay for Annie, which aired on ABC in 1999.
Kirkpatrick is an American screenwriter and director. His films include James and the Giant Peach, Chicken Run, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Charlotte’s Web and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy adaptation, along with contributions to the Smurfs films.
Schwartz has written such hit musicals as Godspell (1971), Pippin (1972) and Wicked (2003). He has contributed lyrics for a number of successful films, including Pocahontas (1995), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), The Prince of Egypt (1998; music and lyrics) and Enchanted (2007). Schwartz has won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics, three Grammy Awards, three Academy Awards and has been nominated for six Tony Awards.
MUSICAL NO. 1
Comic-Con the Musical
Book by Nicholas David Brandt
Music & Lyrics by Laura Watkins
The lives of three Comic-Con attendees change forever when a film icon pulls a ‘Willy Wonka’ and offers to make one special person’s dream come true. Of course, they also have to contend with an egotistical idea thief, a run on nachos, and oh yeah, actual aliens. What did you expect from Comic-Con the Musical?
THE MUSICAL at a Glance
The show opens at a Comic-Con convention with a song reminiscent of medieval chant, then transitioning into an up-tempo pop-rock song about Comic-Con. We then hear a solo ballad about infamous comic book writer DB Coates. We are then told about another comic book writer named Allen Gray through in a company number. Allen Grey appears and sings a song recounting the success, then downfall, of his writing career. Allen Grey then announces a pitch contest to submit the next great idea for a comic movie that he will help produce. With the lead in “What are you looking for?” Allen tells them what he is looking for, they sing the song “Original,” a patter song reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan.
WHAT THE PANELISTS HAVE TO SAY
-It’s a really fun piece
-I want to know who these people are in line and why each of the characters are at Comic-Con
-I want insight into the obsession of these characters
-It’s a rich arena because it’s about a phenomenon that’s not going away
-The biggest challenge is going to be finding the tone of the piece
-Stay grounded in reality, while still having the insanity and passion of Comic-Con
-Make sure the three main characters are real people that we want to invest in
-The main characters need to be grounded
-It’s dangerous to have a cynical main character
-What are the stakes?
-Be clear about who the audience is supposed to root for
-What do the characters want?
-Build to a good closing in the opening number
-“Buttons are important in the theatre”
-The song “Original” needs to be more clever and over rhymed
MUSICAL NO. 2
Book & Lyrics by Jeff Bienstock
Music by Andrea Daly
Legendale is an original, contemporary comedy about the power of fantasy. Andy’s favorite way to escape his humdrum life is the online game “Legendale.” He dreams of victory in the game’s tournament, but is stuck competing as a lowly milkmaid. When the fantasy becomes real, Andy and his avatar must both discover their inner warrior. Legendale blends romance, adventure and virtual reality with a pop-infused score.
THE MUSICAL at a Glance
The show starts with our characters on an online message board in a fantasy game. The opening number begins slowly, then leaps into an up-tempo pop song about the characters preference for fantasy over reality—the song builds and builds to a grand climax. We are introduced to the Cow Maiden, seeming useless fictional character in the game. Following this we hear a touching solo ballad about how life is unfulfilling and he only feels alive in the fantasy game. We go back to reality in the office where Andy works and are introduced to his egotistical boss Steve and the temp Beth. Directly after Andy discovers that the creator of Legendale, Paul Jansen, is going to make an announcement, a musical scene commences. Jansen announces that he will give $100,000 to the first person to reach 1000 points in the game and the title of Lord of Lengendale. Andy must and is late to start the game; the only avatar left is the worthless Cow Maiden. Andy and Beth share a duet relating the monotony of their lives. As Andy plays the game again to no success, then the Cow Maiden begins to talk to him from the game. She relates that she can win the game by using a rock to defeat her opponents; she sings a song about her rock. In this clever song, she demonstrates the power of her rock as she continues to score points in the game.
WHAT THE PANELISTS HAVE TO SAY:
-The show needs more jeopardy especially with Andy
– What does Andy have to accomplish at the office?
-We need to know more about the motives of Jensen
– The duet between Andy and Beth did not feel earned
-The comedy is fantastic
-Lost in how the show will be dramatized on stage
-The shows needs more jeopardy
-The songs are stronger than the hook that you land on
-The hooks don’t live up to the cleverness of the songs
-Maybe Jenson should have a song
-Very well done, enormous skill
-The music was beautiful
-Musical distinction of both worlds was clear
-The dialogue got a good response
-Original, contemporary and clever—Avenue Q territory
-Confused by the Cow Maiden specking directly to Andy
– Mustn’t let the Cow Maiden take over Andy’s character
-Jensen doesn’t make sense—his motivations are not clear
-I want to get to know the three other gamers more
CONCLUSION & Night No. 3
The final evening of the workshop began with awarding of six student scholarships from The Wallis’
Songwriting for the Theater class tauht by Stormy Sacks. The six recipients – Mina Bloom, Rachel Gilbert, Tristan McIntyre, Dylan Schifrin, Bailey Share-Aizic and Juan Solis – were invited onto the stage to receive a combined $5,000 in scholarship funds to be applied to furthering their studies in musical theater and songwriting. The scholarship funds were gifted by DreamWorks
Animation in recognition of the Isabelle Stevenson Award that Schwartz received at the 2015 Tony Awards for his commitment to serving artists and fostering new talent through his charitable work.
The remainder of the evening was dedicated to a musical theater songwriting master class with Stephen Schwartz, David Zippel (Tony Award, City of Angels), Alan Zachary (First Date musical) and Michael Weiner (First Date musical). These theatre veterans spent the evening relating tales of wisdom and advice about musical theatre writing with topics ranging from the creative process to working with directors. Zachary and Weiner even performed a song from their upcoming stage musical adaptation of the New Line Cinema film Secondhand Lions. Following this was a brief Q & A where questions were taken from the audience. Steven Schwartz elegantly closed the evening by performing a song at the piano about being a writer, the song “Written in Stone” was the beautiful ballad written for the bicentennial of the birth of Hans Christian Anderson.
All in all the ASCAP/Dreamworks Musical Theatre Workshop was a treat of the best kind—a three day festival of musical theatre, inspiration, wisdom, learning and entertainment. This workshop is a incredible opportunity for any writer or musical theater fan to attend or take part. Mr. Schwartz is certainly owed an enormous debt of gratitude for his time and passion in creating and executing this wonderful event.