Big week coming up. On Tuesday, I’m taking three singers in to the recording studio here in LA and we’re going to record additional vocals to Lauren Kennedy‘s recording of my song “My Lifelong Love,” which she’s going to release on her new solo album due out this fall on PS Classics. Some of you have heard me sing the song in concerts of mine, but Lauren knocks it out of the park and I’m really excited to put this finishing touch on her recording. My featured singers here in LA are Jennifer Shelton, a soprano I met during auditions for “Finding Nemo,” which I music directed here in LA, Daniel Tatar, a tenor I saw play Jamie in the Pasadena Playhouse production of “The Last Five Years” and then cast in several things since (including “Baby” which I music directed at Reprise!), and Lawrence Cummings, a baritone I saw audition for a Disney project called “Snow Queen” and cast immediately. I wasn’t working on that project, just casting it, and I’ve been looking for something to do with Lawrence ever since. All three of them have amazing voices and I’m excited to see how they sound together. One of the greatest things about being a composer, I think, is that you get to create opportunities for talented people to sing. I love being able to give a good singer a job. Actually, I love being able to give anyone a job. (Any babysitters out there?)
On Wednesday, then, I start rehearsals for the great Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “South Pacific.” This is the production they did at Carnegie Hall starring Reba McEntire and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Those two stars are coming over with it, and they’re doing this production at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
I’ve been there to see several things in the two years I’ve lived in Los Angeles, but this is the first time I’ve been offered a chance to work at the spectacular venue. (I’m the pianist to Paul Gemignani’s music direction.) I’ll keep you posted, but the rest of July for me is pretty much going to be about “South Pacific.”
I music directed the show once before, at the College Light Opera Company. CLOC, as we affectionately call it, is the summer stock theater on Cape Cod where I learned to love musicals. I got a job there in 1993 as a rehearsal pianist for the whole summer. We did nine musicals in eleven weeks, usually rehearsing one during the day and performing a different one at night. If you love musicals, it’s like heaven. You eat, sleep, breathe, and drink (and drink and drink) musicals all day and all night. If you don’t like musicals, I imagine it would sound like torture. For most of the summer, I thought it was heaven. It wasn’t just about the musicals — it was about the musical theater people. I was majoring in music and was in between my sophomore and junior years at Vanderbilt when my conducting professor, John Morris Russell, asked me if I wanted to come work with him for the summer. That’s how I found out about CLOC, and I believe my piano teacher kept the letter I wrote him during about week ten where I said I was contemplating breaking my finger to keep from having to play any more show tunes.
I didn’t break any fingers, and, in fact, I went back the next summer and worked as an associate conductor (alongside Eric Whitacre, my dear old friend who has now become very famous). I continuted to come back for years and years working as a music director there. One of those years, and I honestly can’t remember which, we did “South Pacific.” The actors I worked with there have gone on to have amazing careers on Broadway, in opera and choral music, as conductors and stars and producers and composers.
When you’re a person who works in musical theater, you often don’t know more than a month or two in advance what your life is going to do to keep you busy. I was excited to get the call about “South Pacific” because I’ve worked with Paul Gemignani before and also because I haven’t worked with director David Lee before. I anticipate getting to know lots of new actors and working really hard for two and a half weeks to get the show ready for the thousands of people who will come through the doors at the Hollywood Bowl. But mostly, I’m excited to sit there and re-discover that score. I look forward to being flooded with nostalgia, as I am tonight, and gratitude for the summer on Cape Cod when I first figured out how it all worked.