SPEAKEASY – Attack of the 30 foot Incidental Music!

SP door

So many notes… so little time…

The other day I had a meeting with Speakeasy‘s music director Jonathan Fox Powers.  One of those sessions where you make sure composer and music director are on the same page as it concerns the score, correct any notation errors that may have crept into the score and discuss where I still need to compose incidental music.

IMG_2318_2The songs have all been composed.  But there is still some music in between songs, underscoring, musical comments, little additions that still need writing.  Also, some songs need some restructuring now that the dialog is pretty much set; at least set for the reading on December 7, there will be some rewrites after that to prepare for the February showcase I’m pretty sure.  When I initially wrote a lot of the songs I knew they might be “interrupted” by dialog or other activity between verses and choruses, but I didn’t yet know exactly how that would work out in some numbers, and so those dramatic timing issues didn’t make their way into the written score of every song.  I now need to go back to those songs and make the additions necessary so they musically accommodate the added dramatic action.

So I knew I had some musical homework due in a few weeks, to be ready in time to rehearse for the December 7 reading.  But I didn’t realize just how much it would be.   After Jonathan and I were done making the to-do list, I counted 30 items.  Thirty!


OK, some of those are not so time consuming.  Just a few notation corrections: a misplaced natural here, a reconsidered repeat placement there.  No sweat.  But some, and I am afraid a bit more than I’d thought, require me sitting down and doing at least a half a song’s worth of composition.  Or even a whole song’s worth.

For example, “Curious Colorful Night – Introduction”.   It is the section of “Speakeasy” where John and Jane Allison discover the act of breaking out into song much like Dorothy discovers color when she steps out into Oz.   This will eventually lead to both singing their first complete song in the musical, “Curious Colorful Night”:

Alice and RabbitBut when John and Jane first go down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass into the weird world of “Speakeasy’s” Roaring Twenties Queer Fantasia, they don’t yet sing a complete song.  They sing experimental snatches of “Curious Colorful Night”, just a line here and another line there.  Most of the scene Jane is stuck in a strange foyer, trying to figure out how to get a door that may lead to the Wonderland nightclub to open (some liquor labeled “Drink Me” will come in handy); and John is wandering in a maze of mirrors and strange reflections before he makes his way out and towards a gay gaggle of florists.

So “Curious Colorful Night – Intorduction” is not really a song, as there are only four isolated lines of singing, scattered within much activity and talk.  But the whole scene is still underscored with music from beginning to end.  And it is one of the 30 items of incidental music that lengthen my to-do list.  A major item, as it turns out, since it actually runs much longer, both in time and music pages, than the song “Curious Colorful Night” itself.

So the producer in me is giving the composer in me a good talking to, saying you (composer) really should have not waited until the end of October to start work on all this incidental music, and I (the composer) am telling the producer (me) that I will get it done in time as long as you (me, the producer) don’t get so busy and caught up with all you (producer) are doing you (producer) don’t leave me (composer) enough time to do my (composer’s) work, and I (producer) tell me (composer) that is all fine and good but my (production) work has to be done too, and meanwhile myself (the blogger) reminds us both (composer and producer) that the website is a beast that needs constant feeding too, which is when we (composer and producer) point out we know that and that is why you (blogger) are writing this post draft on a Saturday night rather than, say, going out or chilling with a movie or something….

Maybe I shouldn’t let my husband (the therapist) read that last paragraph…

F flapper

About dannyashkenasi

I'm a composer with over 40 years experience creating music theater. I'm also an actor, writer, director, producer, teacher and general enthusiast for the arts.
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