THE SEASON FOR NEW MUSICALS AT THE WALLIS, PT II
2017 ASCAP FOUNDATION MUSICAL THEATRE WORKSHOP (DAY 2)
By RYAN LUÉVANO
While the first evening of the workshop only offered a sampling of the musicals presented, the second evening featured a 45-minute presentation of the musical The Ballad of Brightwater (Book, Music and Lyrics by Matthew McCollum). This musical was given a full reading, complete with dialogue providing context to the songs and a better understanding of the characters.
The panel for this evening included Karey Kirkpatrick (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 and co- writer of the 2015 musical Something Rotten!); Kevin Bannerman (Former development executive at Walt Disney feature animation, where he assisted with story development for The Lion King, Pocahontas, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and Stephen Schwartz.
Night No. 2–WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 2, 2017
The Ballad of Brightwater
Book, Music and Lyrics by Matthew McCollum
SUMMARY: Brightwater was a town in West Virginia, named after the untamed river that cut off its people from the rest of Appalachia. A town ruled by two households, both alike in rage and indecency; where the men fought with guns, knives, and wrenches, and the women preferred poison, cloth, river and rope. So when Rosie MacAleese fell in love with the son of her father’s nemesis…what on earth did she think would happen?
THE SHOW: The Ballad of Brightwater was inspired by the real life story of the famous Hatfield–McCoy feud in the West Virginia–Kentucky area at the turn of the century. The show began with a beautiful a cappella number that celebrates the land and beauties that America holds. From this number we are transported to a mayoral election between rivals Blackwood and MacAleese who are giving whiskey in exchange for votes.
The music for this scene was an up-tempo Americana folk number that featured quick patter and a gospel-like call and response passages from the ensemble. Before long, it’s discovered that Blackwood’s whiskey was poisoned, a woman falls ill, yet this does not stop the election from continuing—MacAleese wins the election. The show continued following the story of the two families and love between Rosie MacAleese and the son of her father’s nemesis. The rest of the music followed suit with colorful late 19th century Americana inspired waltzes, ballads, and blues numbers.
Words of Wisdom
Given that this musical was a more full presentation, the panelists were able to give more advice regarding the book elements of musicals. The most brought up piece of advice was the importance of making an outline of a musical with index cards before the writing process. When doing this, it is important to make sure that the card (event) that comes next follows from the previous card.
Schwartz also makes commented about recognizing the difference between events and story when writing a musical. Additionally, Schwartz also stressed the importance of a character’s purpose in a musical—they must be consistent and what they want must be clear. Schwartz’s final note was that the songs in a musical must always service the story—it doesn’t matter how pretty or evocative the milieu is—they must service the story.
Writers interested in applying for participation in next year‘s ASCAP Foundation Musical Theatre Workshop in Los Angeles should submit the following:
CD of four (4) songs from your musical
Lyric sheets for each of the four songs
A brief description of each song as to its plot placement
A brief synopsis of the musical
Biographical information for each composer, lyricist and book writer
Contact information (including e-mail address, phone number and mailing address)
Completed submission packages should be sent to Michael A. Kerker
1900 Broadway, 7th Fl
New York, NY 10023
ATTN: ASCAP Foundation Musical Theatre Workshop