BWW Blog: Ryan Bauer-Walsh of Goodspeed's LMNOP - Interview with Writers, Paul Loesel and Scott Burkell
Hey BWW readers!
Paul is the composer of LMNOP and Scott is the book writer and lyricist.
RBW: So how did you two meet in the first place and decide to work together?
Scott Burkell: It was actually at Summer stock, many moons ago, Paul was an MD, and I was an actor and one day I asked Paul if he wanted to write a song, and Paul simply said "Umm...sure."
Paul Loesel: Ha ha! I guess we were reluctant writers at first. We just thought it might be fun to try, and then our love and passion grew for writing music.
RBW: Which one of you discovered the book Ella Minnow Pea?
SB: It was on my "To Read" shelf. While reading it I kept feeling like there was a musical in there. Paul and I were looking for something to adapt and when this book came about we both thought it was a great book to have a life as a musical. Songs just kept popping out of the pages. The women's chorus restrained to humming, the tape over the mouth....It was so topical for us. The themes it dealt with such as freedom of choice-- one group of people telling others how they should live, well that has always really bugged me, and I felt very passionate about creating this story in this medium so that this theme of choice would be more present in a time when it is so important!
PL: "Not one way, many ways!'
RBW: In your process, which comes first; Music or lyrics?
SB: Words first.
PL: Definitely words first, as the composer I don't have anything to say without the lyric to inspire the emotions that I use to guide my writing.
SB: But if we are re-writing, and we like a certain song or melody then we will go in reverse and then I suppose the lyrics would be matched to the music.
RBW: What was the first thing you wrote for LMNOP?
SB: We started at the beginning!
RBW: A very good place to start!
SB: I just had to make sense of the world from point A, and start there. I guess it was my training wheels to start with structure. I was also dying to write 'Ella's Plea.' The "I want" songs are always fun to write.
PL:The first song we wrote was 'The Ballad of Ella Minnow Pea"-- which is now not even in the show.
SB: The first lyrics were "Not so long ago, not so very far away..."
PL: Which also really lent itself to sounding like a children's musical - which we have really tired to stay away from.
RBW: Just how different is the show now than it was in its first concept?
SB: A LOT. Tone is completely different. Getting rid of the "children's musical tone" was the most important part.
PL: Ryan, you did the last version of it really before this inception came about. It was after our University of Michigan production, but pre Goodspeed, and it is now a lot less Seussical than it was before you came into the project.
SB: And when Joe Calarco got on board, he really helped us get to a more mature place, a darker place.
PL: A more tonally appropriate place for what we were envisioning.
RBW: So tell us a little about your time at Goodspeed?
SB: Ultimately it has been very successful for us in what we learned. What we set out to do here, we have done. We have made tons of changes in the show, and have an even stronger direction as to where we are going. But it has been a challenge on every level. It is a long time to be in development and focused. It will be good to get back to NYC and take a breath and see where we are. Development is not for the faint of heart.
RBW: Do you have any other projects you are working on currently, or plan to start in the near future?
SB: We do, a new musical that is currently without a name. We are in the legal process of drawing up creative contracts.... but we can say it is country western based. We have written four songs for this piece already and it has been really fun.
PL: It is such a departure from LMNOP, it is nice. It's like getting some barbecue after eating the same apple for a month and a half.
SB: We are in the mood to write some stand alone songs, it will be nice to get back to that.
RBW: Speaking of, you are both known for your cabaret songs, which are hysterical and intelligent, I would dare say that that may be your style? How would you guys brand yourself?
SB: Cabaret was certainly how we started, with these 'stand alone' songs. We feared we would never have serious songs for our song book, because no matter how we tried, we veered off into wacky world, but then we found a way to get a little more serious. Our "Sort of Love songs", are whimsical, we have a unique way of looking at things, as anybody does I suppose. What makes us different these days is actually that we really love structure. Give me an "a,a,b,a"-- I find that structure frees me up, it helps the ear, it makes the listener feel comfortable. We are sort of throwbacks to perfect rhymes. If we had it our way, we would like to have elevated pop music in theatre, where everything can rhyme but not have to be a repeated lyric.
RBW: Symphonic Pop Theatre? That sounds exciting!
SB: Yes! So even if we go with pop music, it is still going to be combined with old musical theatre ideas, but with a more current sound.
RBW: And where can people listen and purchase sheet music for this fantastic music?
SB: http://scottandpaul.com . Listen to audio clips, see some video clips.
It is amazing how small the world has become, so many of our sales are from Australia.
RBW: And finally, any closing thoughts?
PL: We are really looking forward to what is next with LMNOP, and with everything. Take a healthy break and then get back to work!
RBW: Thank you so much guys, it was great chatting with you more!
PL & SB: Thank you!
Well BWW readers, the pumpkins are blooming, so it looks like the next cast is going to have big ol' jack o Lanterns come October!
I can't say I am not a little jealous, but I will do my best to help them along, and harvest what I can as the week winds down!
So till next time, stay excited! -Ryan