The Musical Project
Though the "big gala" is tonight, one of the few smaller events I attended during the fundraiser/reunion weekend of the School of Communication at Northwestern was a presentation this afternoon by its acclaimed American Music Theater Project program, which was begun by Dominic Missimi in 2005. Its center is to train students not just in singing or just in acting or just in dance, but as a combined disciplined, with a focus, as well, in writing. (One of the alums of that project is the wonderful Heather Headley -- who starred in Elton John's Broadway musical, Aida -- who will appearing at tonight's gala.)
It's a fascinating program that has branched out in numerous projects. At its core, they invite professional composer-writers in to have workshop productions of their works-in-progress. But three other projects stand out -- one is in conjunction with the American Theatre Wing (who oversee the Tony Awards), where among the prizes that the winner of the Jonathan Larson Award for young songwriters gets is a production of their show at Northwestern's AMTP. Also, they have a program in conjunction with the Royal Conservatoire in Scotland, taking a dozen students to work with 20 students at the Royal Conservatoire and put on two musicals (one each written by someone from each group) which they then perform at the Edinburgh Festival for a month. And the third is The Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project -- a weeklong competition for young songrwriters from around the world, the top 12 of which spend a week in residence working in the AMTP program.
(Unrelated side note: the program is now overseen by David Bell, who directed the world premiere of the musical Peggy Sue Got Married. I mention this because the show was written by my friends Arlene Sarner and Jerry Leichtling -- who had also written the film's screenplay -- with music by Bob Gaudio of The Four Seasons. And as whimsy would have it, I attended that world premiere just outside Chicago, when I was home visiting my folks. But I digress)
At the "reunion" event, they had students performing songs from shows that had all had their premieres at Northwestern, developing as part of the AMTP. The songs were all terrific, and so were pretty much all the students. One stood out, a recent graduate, Meghan McCandless. I found some videos of her, and this one was quite good. It's not her alone, but singing the lead with an a capella group.
There were a couple of songs I especially liked that I believed were initiated at the AMTP, but I couldn't find video of them performed there. However, I tracked down other videos for them.
This first had been performed by Meghan McCandless who was absolutely with it. It's called, "I Need More," from a show called Fly By Night. Here's it's sung by Ashley Moniz, who does a nice job with it.
Finally, here's a song, "Live Like You're Going to Die," from a show, Michael Collins, based on the life of the Irish revolutionary, that premiered at the AMTP. The musical was written by Ryan Cunningham (who is now an Associate Director of the project and was at the event this afternoon) and Joshua Salzman. The young man (whose name I didn't catch, alas) who had starred in that initial production sang it at the showcase. But I was able to track down another recording and wanted to include it here as a further example of the work being done. Here is that later version --
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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