The development of a new musical is a complex art. From the development of the original idea, into a workable script (book), music and lyrics, it is a consuming labor of passion, creativity, and love.
Those who attended Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh’s 2017 Hot Metal Musicals had the opportunity to preview songs from over a dozen works in development as well as four songs yet to find a book.
Twenty-one songs on subjects that run the gamut from school days to a world of robotic presidents, from the woman behind the tongue-twister “she sells seashells by the seashore” to a “farceody” (think farce crossed with parody) were presented on Monday evening at a well-attended pitch and performance at the CLO’s Cabaret in Theatre Square.
The ensemble was smartly Directed by Steve Cuden, with musical navigation by the very versatile Douglas Levine, singers Leon Zionts, Dan Mayhak, Jason Shavers, Hope Anthony, Natalie Hatcher, Paul Hambidge, Alex Manalo, and Maria Mauti presented the original songs and show synopses in a simple setting of bar chairs and music stands layered over the Cabaret’s current production’s set.
There are literally hundreds of new musicals conceived every year, a dozen or so might make it into actual production after years of development work, workshops, rewrites and revisions. Fewer than a handful make it to Broadway or Off-Broadway every year. Even Broadway exposure is no guarantee of a hit as many a vanquished producer can attest.
The exciting part of Hot Metal Musicals is a chance to see, hear and meet the breadth and depth of talent that exists in the Pittsburgh region at all levels of musical theatre. There is also the added plus to be able to to see and potentially participate in the realization of a new work of musical theatre.
MTAP, the Musical Theatre Artists of Pittsburgh, created a very informative program for the event with bios highlighting the experience of the thirty artists who wrote and composed the works as well as the aforementioned eight performers and the creative staff. Many have national and regional awards to their credit.
You may not have heard of MTAP before. It is an organization that strives to bring together local and regional artists that work in musical theater. MTAP serves as an incubator where new works come together and are nurtured.
Some of the pitches and songs which I found of interest included: Tell ‘Em a Story from Pictures that Move by David Michael King. The story focuses on the early days of filmmaking and the director Edwin Porter (The Great Train Robbery).
A Little About Me from Class, by Bridgett Perdue and Alicia Johnson, is a soulful tune about the challenges faced by a young teacher setting out to change the world.
Traveling Salesman from Until Tomorrow tells the true story of Arie van Mansum, a young man involved in the resistance movement in WWII in Holland after the German occupation. Book and Lyrics by Michelle Do, Music and lyrics by Ethan Crystal. Michelle is a Senior at North Hills High School with an impressive list of writing credits and awards.
Dance in the Light from the Golden Door with book by Michelle Van Doeren, lyrics by Andrew Swenson and Michelle Van Doeren, music by Scott Andersen. It is about five young immigrants from different countries arriving an Ellis Island in 1903 in search of a better life. The song was a performed as a beautiful duet.
The 2017 edition of Hot Metals Musicals was a great showcase of talent and a chance to preview what might just be the next great musical.
Photo courtesy of Mara E. Nadolski.