Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Birth of a Musical

In 2006, I put a notice out for composers to collaborate on my three-part musical, "Shoes, a Mirror, and a Big, Pink Rose." (Which, years before, was supposed to be an opera, but that's another story.) Four composers replied, but only one of them (the amazing, talented, and ever so clever Michael O'Dell) was so taken with the material he dashed off a song instantly. The first time I heard "Can't Go to Prom Blues" (played back in the nasally clarinet voice of Finale Notepad), I went "huh?" (In my mind, it had the same tune as "Tale as Old as Time" sung by Mrs. Potts...)

Then we met, and he appeared to me burly and beast-like, but kind, with wild Beethoven hair, and the vampire-like complexion of someone who worked nights writing and directing music. We drank some coffee and compared our top fives and found we were compatible. And then we got to work.

This was early May. "I'll write a song a week," he said, "And have it done by August." I widened my eyes and nodded slowly, sincerely, supportively, but thinking of the TEN YEARS IT HAD TAKEN ME TO WRITE THE LIBRETTO!

Four months and many meetings later, he had written four songs. Four GREAT songs. The first draft of the first act was complete! But he felt discouraged for not having met his writing goal. I rolled up the manuscript and beat him about the head and shoulders for being so negative. Then we did some math: Four songs in four months. Only sixteen more songs to write. We could be done by January, 2008.

Well, that was ridiculously far off. Michael started cranking it out again. Four months later, we met at the home of a friend well-endowed with pianos, and he sketched out the next two acts while I sat there going "huh?" and "woah" and "cool." He had just returned from a long east-coast writing odyssey. (While waiting for news of songs, I'd gotten to work on the novelization... but that's another story.) For the rest of the Spring of 2007, we worked on rewrites. But then... radio silence.

In January of this year, 2008, that is, I was moping around without much hope. Michael had gotten sick, moved away, fallen off the face of the earth, etc., and the fate of my poor, peculiar princesses was once again in limbo. I was feeling like I was going through composers like tanks of gas, each one getting this project farther down the road, but never all the way home. (Michael was not the first one I'd used up. (Another story.)

I finally got back in touch with him and said (choke) "farewell...." But then, a miracle happened. Like Snow White coming back to life, or Sleeping Beauty waking up, he was better! He was back! (Although in Florida.) Plus, he was now a communicative blogger! He was ready to write some more!

We re-framed our focus towards finishing ONE act at a time. To both of our surprise, a new song emerged (thanks to the outrageous, gender-bending Harry/Godfather), and evolved more collaboratively than ever over the few months.

And then, something truly phenomenal happened: we discovered we would both be in New York at the same time. Hey, we thought, let's get together and have coffee. Cool. Hey, let's get together and do some writing. Cool. HEY. LET'S GET TOGETHER AND PUT ON A SHOW!

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