NEW MUSICALS THE BULLY PROBLEM AND TENN PRESENTED AT THE WALLIS
2018 ASCAP FOUNDATION MUSICAL THEATRE WORKSHOP
BY RYAN M. LUÉVANO
The ASCAP Foundation Musical Theatre Workshop, now presented in a new partnership with Universal Theatrical Group, has returned to The Wallis in Beverly Hills this February. This workshop pioneered by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin, The Prince of Egypt, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) provides an opportunity for musical theatre writers to present a reading a new original musical work-in-progress, then receive feedback from industry professionals in front of a live audience. This year the workshop included two 50-55 minute presentations of the two new musicals The Bully Problem and Tenn.
This year’s experienced panelist included: Stephen Bray (12 billboard top ten recordings: “Angel”, “Into the Groove”, “Poppa Don’t Preach”, “True Blue” and “Express Yourself”); Dean Pitchford (songwriter, screenwriter, director, actor, and Academy Award, Golden Globe winner); Karey Kirkpatrick (James and the Giant Peach, Chicken Run, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Charlotte’s Web and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Something Rotten); Kevin Bannerman (The Lion King, Monkeybone, Forever Plaid: The Movie, Ever After, and Pocahontas) and the prodigious Stephen Schwartz.
MUSICAL NO. 1: THE BULLY PROBLEM
Book, music and lyrics by Michael Gordon Shapiro
Directed by Joshua Finkel
Music Direction/Piano by Ron Barnett
Fourteen-year-old math whiz Kevin Djikstra just wants to study calculus and avoid people but is drawn into a struggle between the smart kids and bullies at his new junior high. The Bully Problem is a story about nerds, thugs and a well-intentioned but buggy android.
THE BULLY PROBLEM AT A GLANCE
The musical opens with the up-tempo title song “The Bully Problem” sung by the ensemble. In this pop rock number the nerds (our protagonists) present the lesson that “people are terrible” (“people” referring to the bullies). The musical follows Kevin’s journey to get into an elite academy, then the show takes a surprise turn when Kevin finds a robot who unknowingly sets him on a new path to forge relationships with his peers. The robot (Oscar) played by Landen Starkman offered a compelling performance of the patter-like song “Operational.” Additionally, narrator J. Anthony McCarthy was an impressive narrator with an astounding ability for making sound effects.
MUSICAL NO. 2: TENN
Book, music and lyrics by Julian Hornik
Directed by Lauren Modiano
Music Direction/Piano by Daniel Rudin
Guitar by: Jordan Plotner
Tenn is a new musical based on the early life of Tennessee Williams, from his years trapped in St. Louis with a family in collapse to his formative months living in the Old French Quarter of New Orleans, and the careless summer in California that followed. These were the seemingly aimless days of his youth—when a young nobody named Tom Williams discovered who he was and wasn’t, and in his wandering found Tennessee.
TENN AT A GLANCE
A folk-rock song “Mr. Postman” opens the musical with a guitar added to the piano accompaniment. Christian Probst plays Tennessee Williams bringing stunning vocals to all of Hornik’s soaring melodies. In this musical we follow Williams’ journey to becoming the infamous writer that he’s know for today by tracing his influence by American poet Hart Crane (“American Poet”), his home life “Old Blue Chair” and his homosexual lifestyle.
WORDS OF WISDOM
Closing the second evening Stephen Schwartz gives the writers what he calls: “The Four Questions” that every musical writer should keep in mind when writing a musical. These questions also offer a concise summation for the general comments and advice about writing musical given by the panelists over the course of the two evenings.
Schwartz’s “The Four Questions”:
1) What is this about?
2) Who am I rooting for?
3) Why should the I (the audience) care?
4) When do I get to go home? (Meaning: What is the completion of this story?)
APPLY FOR NEXT YEAR
Writers interested in applying for participation in next year‘s ASCAP Foundation Musical Theatre Workshop in Los Angeles should submit the following:
Writers interested in applying for participation in the ASCAP Foundation Musical Theatre Workshops in Los Angeles and New York City 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)
Send your completed submission package to:
Michael A. Kerker
1900 Broadway, 7th Fl
New York, NY 10023
ATTN: ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop