No, we haven’t stopped working. We may have lost a little steam over August since both Phillip and I had family commitments, but now we are right back on track, meeting every week and making great progress. It’s really starting to come together. We are down to our final two scenes of the show and I think that is very exciting. I uploaded a new song today – “Jake Wellington”, and hopefully I will be able to upload “That Miracle” some time next week. I will be back at Alfred’s this week and next to score those two songs.
Then the work really begins again for me. The final few songs I have to write for this first draft (or really, isn’t it our second draft) are all really big numbers which is a bit intimidating. However, it will be fun to get back onto the piano again. I have been waiting to write more songs until our book was a bit farther along.
So for anyone who is out there and following along (which I don’t think is anyone – but whatever) we are still very hard at work and hopefully should have some sort of finished first version by the end of October??? And we may be able to keep the title, “Brilliant” after all.
I thought I would post since it has a been a while and I’d like to keep this as updated as possible. So it’s been quiet here – but in this case I’d say quiet is good. I took a break from composing a put my draft in the hands of local writer, Phillip Brown. We actually have been working together, meeting weekly. We decided to make some pretty big changes to the original story; however, the overall theme of the story is staying the same which is all that matters to me. So we are now hard at work creating, what I think, will be a much stronger and more dramatic story. What does that mean for all of the songs posted on this site? Well, we shall see. Obviously most will not fit so neatly into this new book; however, we are seeing that some do which is nice. I had some weeks off from writing so now my head is clear to get back to the piano- which is actually where I am headed right now! Going to finish the new opening song – (Luckily though, we are still using Pose! – yay!) We will not be able to have a reading in June as I originally planned- but we will have one eventually-maybe Fall? We shall see! I will post Phillips resume in the coming weeks so you can all get to know him. We are having a blast.
So I just returned from a week long vacation with my oldest daughter. We were visiting different cities looking at colleges. We had an amazing time together; and honestly, I was so enjoying each day with her and what we were doing that I didn’t have much time to think about Brilliant. That was until our visit to NYC which included a night out to see Dear Evan Hanson. Now I have known about this show for quite some time and would have seen it earlier but I wanted to wait and take my daughter during this college tour week. I was always concerned that there would be to many similarities between DEH and Brilliant and therefore there would be no need for me to continue working on my show. After seeing DEH, I can say there certainly are similarities. The stories are similar in the fact that they both take a close, personal look at a family’s struggle. Now, this is not only seen in DEH, but also recently in The Case of the Incident of the Dog in the Night, Fun Home and Next to Normal. I really see this type of storytelling in musical theatre as a trend. The similarities don’t stop. In DEH and in Brilliant the story resolves around an atypical boy. However, in DEH, the story really focuses on the boy’s struggle and in Brilliant, it is the paren’t struggle that is the center focus.
Okay- so where in the world do I have the audacity to even compare my show with a show that will certainly be up for a Tony? I know- I really don’t. That’s what is so frustrating. I had some issues with the show, but there is no doubt that the music was fantastic. I had enjoyed listening to the soundtrack before but now after seeing the show, I am enjoying it so much more. So where does that leave me? Kind of depressed in a way because it’s like, “Shit- if this show is going to make it onto any stage it needs to be THAT good- and can I really make it that good? Can I even make it half that good?” Well – I could just give up now, or I can use that experience to motivate me to keep working. After a week’s hiatus I revisited my songs and I thought- well- that one is okay- but that one has to go. So I will now get back to work at the piano while the writer continues his work on the book. I can’t really complain- any reason for me to have to spend hours at the piano is actually a gift. So round two – here we go!
ps- I ran into Charles Strouse (composer of Annie/Bye Bye Birdie) AGAIN at a store in NYC. That’s two times in 3 months! And I’m not even from NY. It could be a sign…but for what?
Kim Suskind was back to record more songs today. Check out Soar and Stand Tall. Thanks Kim for making the trip all the way from Jersey!
So it’s been a couple of weeks since my last entry. As you know I finished the draft I wrote and passed that on to a writer who has been siting with it and reading it over. We had a meeting last night and he shared many of his notes with me- and there were many! I will say I agreed with just about everything he had to say which is good that we are on the same page. (Ha- get it, same page!). But the truth is I know now that the show is just beginning to be created. The original idea I had will still be there but songs will leave, new songs will be created, characters will be developed. It’s all part of the process, I know. We will just have to wait….and see.
On a fun note, I am still recording demos so keep checking the music page. This Wednesday, Kimberly Suskind is coming to record several songs including SOAR which is one of my favorites. I can’t wait to hear how it sounds with her wonderful voice. Kim is presently starring in John and Jen at the Eagle Theatre in Hammonton, NJ. I went to go see her perform last week and she was amazing. The Eagle theatre is South Jersey’s only Equity theatre. It is an amazing little theatre and I highly recommend a visit there if you want a fun night out.
And this past weekend I recorded two adorable and talented young boys, Max Ringold and Lyam David – Kilker. You can hear them on “Just Wanna Be” and “I Believe You.”
Oh – and I just re read my post from two weeks ago. In it I said that all the songs were finished being written. Ha! That’s so funny, and so naive of me to say! I actually just wrote another one a few days ago and am now guessing I’ll be writing at least ten more in the next few months. I can only imagine how many songs will have been written for this show when it’s all said and done. Anyone want to go for an over/under? My guess is 32.
Scoring. Probably the most boring but most necessary part of the process. Without the score there is nothing. Unfortunately when I write music I write the notes in such a way that only I can read them. I actually am a trained pianist and can read music just fine- it’s transcribing it that I never mastered. And yes, there is great software that can speed things along- but you still need to master that. So that is why I spend hours and hours with Alfred Goodrich at Silvertone Studios in Ardmore.
Alfred is amazing. I spent literally hundreds of hours with him when working on my first show, Class Reunion, because not only is he a master at Finale- the scoring software, but he also has an incredible recording studio in his house. But for right now we are just hard at work scoring the songs for Brilliant. Heres how we work. I go to his studio, I play the songs piece by piece, and he makes sure every note, every rest, every little everything is perfectly placed on that paper. Once I have completed scores I can send them to the actors, musicians, anyone involved in the show. So the picture you see below is my view for hours and hours on end. Just FYI- it takes us about 3.5 hours to complete one song and there are 17 songs so far in the show (and I’m sure some will be tossed and more will come). So that’s alot of time spent with Alfred! It’s a good thing we get along so well.
Well, I wasn’t going to do an entry today- but it’s been such a good day so far I might as well. So first and foremost I finally finished the last two songs. They are short songs, “Lullaby” and “Round and Round” but still they are an integral part of the show. I just finished recording the instrumental tracks and hopefully my voice will sound okay enough later to record vocals and get them up on the website. Woohoo- songs are done!
But what’s way cooler is that I got a reply from Benj Pasek from an email I sent him a few weeks back. I feel like an idiot because I didn’t wish him good luck on the Oscars in that email. Ugh. Anyway- I was writing him because at the time I felt this overwhelming desire to connect with him because we had both worked on shows which focused on boys from the same school. Benj grew up not far from me and Dear Evan Hanson was inspired by a boy who went to Friends Central school. My show is also insprired by a boy who attended that school a few years later. And the coincidences don’t top there. Both shows deal with boys who are out of the norm. AND – his mother who is a professor of psychology, most recently wrote a book entitled, …..wait for it….”Becoming Brilliant”! I mean c’mon! So I had to reach out. I actually was able to have a wonderful conversation with his mother who was so supportive and helpful.
I decided I will print out that email along with one I recently received from Charles Strouse (composer of Annie and Bye Bye Birdie) and I will pin them up in my office to look at everyday and keep me motivated!
So here it is – my first completed first draft of Brilliant. I am pretty excited and proud about this because I am not a writer. I actually never intended to work on the book of this show until I attended Broadwaycon. At that convention I met a man who has worked behind the scenes on Broadway musicals for years. He said to me, “Stop writing songs and write the book. You know the story you want to write, so write it. Then you will have something to take to a writer who can develop it.” He also recommended some incredible books about writing fiction and writing for musical theatre. I read the books and I began to write. I learned so much from those books and I am very happy with what I have created. ( I highly recommend the book: Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver).
This picture was taken at Fed Ex at 7:15 am this morning. I was seeing my father later in the day and I needed to het him a birthday present. I realized the best gift I could give him was the very first copy (signed of course!) of Brilliant. My father was really the one who got me into all of this to being with. He created a show years back, entitled “Class Reunion” in which he found a writer and I wrote the music and lyrics. That was an incredibly fulfilling experience and I learned sooo much. I know if it wasn’t for Class Reunion I never would have thought any of this was possible. So Happy Birthday again dad and thank you!
Today the adorable and talented Melissa Stern came in to record her part as Bella in the opening number, Pose! She came in well prepared and was even able to throw in some new harmonies on the spot. I look forward to working with her younger sister, Becca, who will be coming tomorrow to record role of Julie. If you are wondering where I am finding my wonderful talent; I am getting them from theatrephiladephia.org, backstage, and word of mouth. I look forward to working with these two talented ladies in the months ahead.