We just finished an amazing workshop of Dani Girl as part of the Human Race Theatre‘s 2012 Festival of New Musicals. We were fortunate enough to work with an incredible cast and creative team, which led to an overwhelming audience response. Truly inspiring.
The best part of these types of festivals, though, is that they give you the chance to experience other exciting new musicals, which are always incredibly different from one another and thrilling to experience at their various stages of development.
We were honored to be included with two remarkable new pieces, Ryan Scott Oliver’s 35mm (based on the photography of Matthew Murphy), and Red-Blooded, All-American Man, with a book by Carter Anne McGowan and Todd Lawson, and music and lyrics by the band Cowboy Mouth.
The following videos present a master class in storytelling through the lens of a critique of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (with some bizarre dark humor and not safe for work language thrown in for fun).
I was rewatching them today, and realized that I paid a lot of money to have most of these lessons drilled into my head in grad school.
Most (if not all) of the points covered can be directly applied to writing musicals as well, particularly as they apply to characterization, story structure, clearly defined protagonists/antagonists, logic, motivation, and the power of simplicity.
His analysis of the fight choreography, “Lightsaber duels have less to do with the fight itself but more so with the internalization of the characters,” is one that any writer for the musical stage would be well served to keep in mind.
Too often, you see sequences in musicals that have much less to do with what’s going on with the characters, and more to do with the business of what’s happening on stage. Like the overly choreographed duels in The Phantom Menace, we see flash trump substance, thus rendering the moment dramatically untrue, and much less compelling.
The importance of collaboration and the dangers of not listening to (or not being able to solicit) honest feedback are also obviously applicable. Perhaps the most interesting point, though, to me, is the brief mention he makes of how the cleanliness of the new Star Wars films robs them of something essential, that grit and imperfection are actually what give the originals their humanity.
This is the first song we wrote for DANI GIRL. In fact, it’s the first anything that we wrote for DANI GIRL. It’s the only song that we wrote before the book. In general, we think it’s a pretty bad idea to write songs before the book, but in this case, we ignored that policy.
The song was first performed at the Civic Light Opera’s Cabaret in Pittsburgh in 2006, as part of a HOMEMADE FUSION concert to celebrate the graduating class of Carnegie Mellon musical theatre majors. It was performed by Patina Miller before she was Tony nominee Patina Miller. To our knowledge, no recording of that performance exists. But suffice it to say, she rocked it.
Speaking of rocking it, here’s Natalie Venetia Belcon singing the song live at the Zipper Theatre:
The song has changed a little bit since then. Most notably, we now have the intro spoken rather than sung, which helps the transition into the song within the context of the show. A few of the lyrics have changed as well, for reasons that are probably clear if you know the show.