Unlocking the Mysteries of Musical Theater Vocal Rehearsals

Unlocking the Mysteries of Musical Theater Vocal Rehearsals

Unraveling the Complexities of Creating a Musical

As a lifelong theater enthusiast, I’ve always been captivated by the magic that happens when a musical comes to life. The way the music and lyrics intertwine to tell a story, the seamless blend of voices that send chills down your spine, and the sheer collaborative effort required to bring it all together – it’s a truly awe-inspiring process.

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking with the dynamic duo behind the new musical Lempicka, playwright Carson Kreitzer and composer Matt Gould. Their conversation shed light on the immense challenges and joys of crafting a musical, from the initial spark of inspiration to the long and winding road of development.

“Super basic but how hard is it to actually make a musical that gets produced?” I asked, eager to unravel the mysteries of this captivating art form.

The Collaborative Journey

As Carson and Matt described, the journey of creating a musical is a true labor of love, often spanning years of intense collaboration and unwavering dedication. “Our partnership started when Carson and I met during the Composer-Librettist Studio at New Dramatists,” Matt recounted. “We were paired up for the very first week of the Studio and asked to write a song together. It was kind of like magic – right away, we just really hit it off.”

That initial spark of chemistry led to a fruitful and challenging partnership, as the pair navigated the complexities of bringing their vision to life. “I believe I said, ‘I’m thinking Evita meets Sunday in the Park with George – what d’ya think?'” Carson recalled, sliding an art book across the table to Matt. “And he was like, ‘DUH. Of course. That’s the best idea ever.'”

However, the path from that initial idea to a fully-realized musical proved to be far from straightforward. “I realized that I had talked Matt into something insane and that we just couldn’t do this on our own,” Carson admitted. “That’s the main thing I have learned working on musicals. With a play, you can invite your friends over to your house to hear it and make a pizza, but with a musical, that is just not possible.”

The Elusive Nature of Music

As Matt eloquently expressed, there’s a certain mystical quality to the process of crafting a musical that sets it apart from other theatrical endeavors. “There is something about music that is just elusive,” he mused. “You can have all the lyrics and you can listen to it in the room and I can sing it and you can feel it, but for some reason, when you hear the thing as a whole, when you hear a song, it does a certain amount of work on you that words just don’t do all by themselves.”

This elusive nature of music means that the process of developing a musical is an exercise in patience, resilience, and a willingness to embrace the unknown. “Part of the reason that it takes so much time is we are dealing with a cast of a minimum of twelve or fourteen people,” Matt explained. “In order to really hear it and know if it is working, you have to get those fourteen people in a room, which costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time.”

And even after countless hours of workshops, readings, and revisions, the duo admitted that there are still moments where they’re unsure if a song truly works for the show. “I still don’t know if the song works for our show or if the song just doesn’t work and we have to rewrite it,” Matt confessed. “So there’s something mystical about musicals that’s sort of hard to pin down. It just takes a lot of time and a lot of resources to suss out.”

Finding the Emotional Heart

For Carson, this collaborative process has been a transformative experience, pushing her to delve deeper into the emotional lives of her characters. “Working with Matt has really pushed me toward writing in a more emotional place,” she explained. “My characters are always very intellectual with lots of walls up, and early on, when we were just feeling our way through, I would describe what was going on, and Matt would say, ‘But what is she feeling? Where is she emotionally in this?’ That’s where it lives with music. You can’t hide in intellect and keep the devastation at bay.”

This emphasis on emotion has profoundly impacted Carson’s approach to her craft. “In a musical, you can’t hide. You just need to be there when the wave breaks,” she said. “And what Matt is saying about really wanting to get the piece out there – the stakes are so much higher, and the reach is potentially so much wider with a musical. I am somewhat obsessed with troublesome women, and this story just feels really important to get out there.”

A Marriage of Minds and Hearts

The collaboration between Carson and Matt has been likened to a marriage, with all the ups and downs that come with such an intense creative partnership. “There are challenging moments,” Matt acknowledged. “I think relating it to a marriage is exactly right – it is a marriage, and the work is our baby. And I haven’t raised children, but I imagine that people have certain places where they agree – the child should go to school here or the child should wear these kinds of clothes – so there are certainly challenging moments.”

However, the duo has developed a deep understanding and respect for one another, built on a shared dedication to their “baby” – the musical they’ve poured their hearts and souls into. “No matter what, if we’re disagreeing about how to get from point A to point B, we both know very deeply that this is all out of love for this project and trying to get it to happen the right way,” Carson explained. “Matt and I are both a little impatient, so any trepidation is mostly around when can we get in the room next, when is this happening next, when can we have actors, and is that happening soon enough?”

Redefining the Dream

As a former professional actor myself, I can relate to the complex emotions and challenges that Carson and Matt have faced in their creative journey. Like many aspiring performers, I once dreamed of the glitz and glamour of Broadway, imagining myself taking the stage in a Tony-nominated show.

However, as Casey Erin Clark eloquently expressed, the pursuit of that dream can be fraught with obstacles and sacrifices. The “Myth of How to Be a Real Artist” that Clark describes – the idea that the only way to be a true artist is to devote your entire being to your craft – can be both alluring and detrimental.

For me, the transition from the full-time pursuit of Broadway to the life I lead now was not an easy one. I had to let go of that dream, only to discover a new passion in the world of entrepreneurship and voice coaching. Like Clark, I found that by broadening my horizons and embracing a more holistic approach to my artistic expression, I was able to find fulfillment and success on my own terms.

Embracing the Evolving Dream

And it’s this same spirit of adaptability and open-mindedness that I see in Carson and Matt’s approach to their musical journey. As they grapple with the complexities of bringing Lempicka to life, they’ve had to redefine their idea of what “done” looks like.

“Done looks like the curtain going up and an audience being there, but that’s probably not even done,” Carson mused. “The goal is to be able to share this with as wide an audience as possible, so I think like any theatre, it’s not done until it’s done.”

Matt echoed this sentiment, expressing a desire to see their work resonate with audiences far and wide. “I think we’re telling a very large story that I want to be able to share with a large audience,” he said. “The satisfaction will come when girls in their high school talent shows are singing Beauty and little girls on America’s Got Talent are singing a lesbian love song to all of America – that’s when it will be done.”

It’s a refreshingly holistic perspective, one that embraces the ever-evolving nature of the creative process and the far-reaching impact that a truly great musical can have. And as Carson and Matt continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the world of musical theatre, I can’t help but feel inspired to redefine my own dreams and pursue new avenues of artistic expression.

After all, as the team behind the Musical Theater Center has shown, the true magic of this art form lies not in the pursuit of a singular vision, but in the willingness to embrace the mysteries, challenges, and triumphs that come with the collaborative journey. It’s a lesson I’ll carry with me as I continue to explore the boundless possibilities of the stage.

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