BWW Interview: Lance Horne Comes Home to Roost at Birdland

BWW Interview: Lance Horne Comes Home to Roost at Birdland

Lance Horne, Emmy-award-winning theater composer, performer and songwriter, has plenty of reasons to celebrate this spring. For one thing, he'll be previewing songs from several of his new musicals and secondly, he'll be performing tunes from his CD First Things Last, in his debut concert at Birdland on March 31. Guests that evening will also include Alan Cumming (Cabaret), Alice Ripley (Next to Normal) and Rachel Dratch (SNL).

Dratch will perform a comic song during the Birdland concert. "We did a four-hour musical event together and we just hit it off," Horne said. "She'll be doing a hilarious number on Downton Abbey, and that's all I'm going to say," he laughed.

Horne's CD is an amalgam of pop, rock, theater and jazz, and features the vocal talents of American stage and screen stars including Cumming, Ricki Lake (Hairspray, The Ricki Lake Show), Cheyenne Jackson (30 Rock, Glee), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Rent) and Lea DeLaria (Orange Is The New Black) among other artists.

Horne has just returned from performing a concert in San Francisco and plans to cross the country again for another one in Los Angeles on April 15.

BWW Interview: Lance Horne Comes Home to Roost at Birdland"We had amazing people performing-a real cross-section of wonderful artists," Horne said of the San Francisco concert, which featured San Francisco's Gay Men's Chorus. That concert included Horne's movement in Tyler's Suite, a choral song-cycle dedicated to Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old Rutgers University student who took his own life in 2010, a victim of cyber-bullying.

"Everybody got together to write for this project," Horne said. "The family created a foundation to turn bystanders into upstanders"-encouraging individuals to stand up to bullies-"and also help ease the pain of coming out and for those dealing with trauma.

"It was amazing to hear the teens cheer and scream from the balcony," Horne said. The suite is a passionate exploration of how bullying and intolerance resonates with every person, he added. "It's about what it means to be human and go through emotions and find family," he said of the libretto. "We're saying that it's O.K. to stand up to bullying. It's a nice, simple way to stand up for what we believe. What's more American than that?"

A collaboration with the English author Neil Gaiman resulted in The Night Before My Wedding. "Neil gave me his unpublished love poems to Amanda Palmer (The Dresden Dolls). I was at their wedding and had done several concerts with the both of them and we all grew very close." he said. "He gave me the letters after their honeymoon and wanted to work on something together-something beautiful and earth-shattering. I know them both so well; it was like looking into their hearts. They've had a magic gothic realism kind of life," he added.

Horne has also directed concerts of Alan Cumming and Liza Minnelli as well as played command performances for President Obama and the First Lady. He relishes collaborating with artists from all genres, he said.

"It makes you explain yourself, and through that you grow," he said. Sometimes it's a shared moment over a lyric. "That's why I'm an artist. I get a contact high," he said with a laugh.

"Communal experiences are very important, and what I love about New York is that people still see live theater and events and not just for a birthday."

BWW Interview: Lance Horne Comes Home to Roost at BirdlandHorne is grateful for his formative years spent at The Juilliard School. "Juilliard set the tone for me for working in the world at large," he said. "Music is my longest relationship to date," he said. "I get hungry for music before I get hungry for food. It's a great blessing. My inner 12-year-old dances with joy every morning."

Horne maintains a busy performance schedule on both coasts, Australia and the U.K. His writing encompasses musical theater, rock, classical, film scores and television. He's performed at Carnegie Hall, Joe's Pub and the Sydney Opera House. He wrote the theme song for The Ricki Lake Show and provided arrangements for the Boston Pops and the Broadway production of Little Women.

His musical preferences range from Broadway musicals to country. "My personal favorites include Betty Hutton," he said. "I am obsessed with her and love to watch her old musicals over and over."

But for sheer inspiration, he returns to his country roots. "I was born in Wyoming and nobody but nobody beats Dolly Parton." His Broadway taste is all-encompassing, but he does admit to having favorites.

"It's lovely that I won an Emmy-Daytime Emmy for Best Original Song, Chemistry: One Life to Live, 2008-"but knowing I won the Jonathan Larsen Award (2006)-now I can go home happy. It came at a very low moment in my life, as these things often do. I saw RENT the first week I came to New York City and to have Daphne on the First Things Last is just amazing. I recently saw her perform at The Cutting Room," he said, "and of course I cried."

The Birdland concert promises something for lovers of many musical genres, he said. "All we need is a great audience. We've got everything else all taken care of."

Lance Horne performs at Birdland on March 31 at 7 p.m. 315 W. 44th St.

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